One week from today, change is coming to Washington, D.C. The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, coupled with a slim majority position for Democrats in both houses of Congress, could lead to sweeping reforms.
One of the many items on Biden's docket is getting additional stimulus out to American workers and their families. Following the recent passage of $600 stimulus payouts, Biden has insisted on passing additional fiscal stimulus, to the tune of $2,000 per qualified individual.
For some folks, a $2,000 stimulus payout would help them pay their rent, mortgage, and utility bills, or even put food on the table. For others who have a healthy emergency fund and haven't been adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, a $2,000 stimulus check might be put to best use in the stock market.
While it's not entirely clear if there's enough support in Congress for $2,000 stimulus checks, what is clear is that putting that money to work in dividend stocks would be a smart move if stimulus payouts happen. The following high-yield dividend stocks represent some of the best investments you can make with your stimulus money.
Annaly Capital Management: 10.6% yield
It's true -- I've been beating the drum quite loudly of late on mortgage real estate investment trust (REIT) Annaly Capital Management (NLY -0.15%). But if history is any indication, my bullishness should be justified over the coming years.
Mortgage REITs like Annaly make money by borrowing money at lower short-term lending rates and buying assets that offer higher long-term yields. In Annaly's case, it's primarily buying mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The difference between this higher long-term yield and lower short-term borrowing rate is known as net interest margin (NIM). The wider the NIM, the more money Annaly can make.
During periods of monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve, or when the yield curve is flattening, Annaly's NIM has a tendency to constrict. That's bad for its income potential. But when the U.S. economy is rebounding from a recession and it has the full-fledged support of the Fed in keeping lending rates down, we often see a multiyear period when the yield curve steepens. Essentially, we're in the bread-and-butter period when Annaly's profit potential shoots through the roof.
Furthermore, Annaly's focus on agency assets means the overwhelming majority of its MBSs are backed by the federal government in the event of default.
Reinvesting your payouts into Annaly could double your initial investment in less than seven years.
Walgreens Boots Alliance: 4.1% yield
Another fantastic high-yield dividend stock stimulus recipients should strongly consider buying is pharmacy chain Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA 0.19%).
Walgreens has had a rough past three years. Online competition has picked up in the pharmacy space, and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has cut foot traffic into its stores and clinics. The good news is that Walgreens' management team has a turnaround plan well underway. It should begin paying ample dividends this year.
First of all, Walgreens is trimming the fat. It's cutting $2 billion in annual expenditures by 2022, and last week announced the sale of its wholesale drug business to AmerisourceBergen for $6.5 billion. Though this deal is slightly dilutive to earnings in 2021, it will actually allow Walgreens to focus on higher-margin aspects of its operations.
The company is also going all-in on digitization. Big-time investments in direct-to-consumer sales and broadening what consumers can buy online have been yielding positive results.
Most exciting of all, Walgreens has partnered with VillageMD to install full-service clinics in up to 700 of its stores. This should create a seamless treatment-to-pharmacy experience while encouraging repeat business and foot traffic.
AvalonBay Communities: 4% yield
The favorable tax structure afforded to REITs usually makes them a favorite among income investors. Should a $2,000 stimulus check become reality, investing that payout in apartment REIT AvalonBay Communities (AVB 0.17%) wouldn't be a bad idea.
Things haven't been perfect in recent quarters for Avalon. The COVID-19 pandemic has chased some renters into more rural settings, but AvalonBay primarily focuses on major cities and well-populated suburbs in coastal states. Further, historically low mortgage rates may be driving some of its renters to take the plunge and become homebuyers.
However, AvalonBay possesses a few key advantages that many other apartment REITs don't have. First, it's generally targeting a more well-to-do renter. Having more affluent renters at its properties makes it far less likely that minor economic disruptions, or even recessions, will tangibly impact its bottom-line results or occupancy rates.
AvalonBay can also lean on the push-pull between lending rates and home prices to lock renters into its communities. Even though historically low mortgage rates have made homebuying appetizing, the price of homes is going through the roof and could price prospective buyers out of the market. Conversely, when home prices are falling, lending rates are usually rising to less attractive levels.
AvalonBay is a steady play in apartment REIT space that'll yield a healthy 4% for its shareholders.
AT&T: 7.2% yield
Finally, stimulus check recipients would be wise to put some of their money to work in telecom behemoth AT&T (T 1.18%). Though AT&T's rapid growth days are long gone, this is a company with a number of needle-moving catalysts in its sails.
The most obvious long-term growth opportunity for AT&T is the company's wireless division. The rollout of 5G infrastructure represents the first major upgrade to wireless download speeds in a decade. This rollout won't happen overnight, but it should lead to a sustainable tech upgrade cycle for consumers and businesses that want to take advantage of these faster download speeds. Since AT&T generates its juiciest wireless margins from data consumption, 5G is a shot in the arm of sustainable organic growth.
AT&T also has plenty of potential to make headway in streaming. AT&T's WarnerMedia had a slow start with HBO Max following its initial launch in late May, but the service picked up 4 million new subscribers in a matter of weeks following the end of the third quarter. HBO Max's unique content and substantive media library have been leaned on to increase its active user count to 12.6 million.
With AT&T's management focused on selling non-core assets and further reducing debt, the company's greater than 7% yield looks to be well protected. It's the perfect beacon for income-seeking investors.