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2 High-Yield Dividend Stocks to Buy Now

By David Jagielski - May 20, 2021 at 6:45AM

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They pay more than double what you'd earn with the average stock in the S&P 500.

Are you looking for a way to supplement your income? Consider investing in dividend stocks, which pay you regularly as you (ideally) also benefit from rising share prices. Today, the average dividend yield for stocks on the S&P 500 is about 1.4%.

However, you can earn significantly more from Gilead Sciences (GILD 5.16%) and Verizon Communications (VZ 0.91%). Both stocks have a yield of more than 4% and are safe long-term buys. On a $25,000 investment in either of these companies, you could be making more than $1,000 every year.

Piggy bank sitting on top of hundred dollar bills.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Gilead Sciences

Gilead currently pays a quarterly dividend of $0.71, which is higher than the $0.68 it was paying last year. Over a span of five years, the company has raised its dividend payments by 51%, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.6%. While this doesn't guarantee that management will continue hiking the payouts, it is a good sign for investors that raising the dividend is a priority for management. The stock's current 4.1% yield is well above average, making Gilead one of the better-paying income investments you can buy right now.

Investors may be spooked looking at Gilead's payout ratio, which is currently much higher than 100%. But that's because of one bad quarter last year during which the company incurred a nonrecurring expense related to the acquisition of immuno-oncology company Forty Seven; this has made its financials look worse than they really are.

On April 29, Gilead released its first-quarter results, reporting diluted earnings per share of $1.37 for the period ending March 31 (nearly double its dividend payments). Profits of $1.7 billion were up 12% year over year, and sales also grew 16% to $6.4 billion. The company got a $1.5 billion boost from remdesivir, its COVID-19 treatment, which offset declines in HIV-related products.

The pandemic has been negatively affecting Gilead's core business, meaning that in the near future, we could see the reverse of the above -- a situation in which sales of remdesivir fall while HIV sales recover. But even with a potential drop in revenue, there still looks to be plenty of room for Gilead to support its dividend payments. The business has historically been a strong one, with margins at about 80% over the past five years; operating income has remained at 37% or better in all but one of those years.

Shares of Gilead are down about 9% over the past year while the S&P 500 has soared more than 40%. Although growth may be a challenge for the company in the near future, it still makes for a solid dividend stock with safe payouts to buy today.

2. Verizon Communications

Verizon pays its shareholders an even higher yield of 4.3% annually. It has also increased dividend payments over the years, but the hikes have been more gradual; they have risen by 11% from the $0.565 that the telecom giant was paying in 2016 to $0.63 today, for a CAGR of 2.1%. While that isn't a terribly high rate of increase, it's at least enough to offset the impact of inflation. Its payout ratio sits at a very manageable 54%, leaving room for additional rate hikes.

This is another stock that won't offer much year-over-year growth, but that does at least provide stability. In each of the past five years, Verizon's net income has come in at 10% of its revenue or higher. Sales of $128.3 billion in 2020 were down 2.7% from the previous year as lockdowns and a lack of travel weighed on the company's business.

But the good news for investors is that the company is off to a strong start to fiscal 2021. Verizon's first-quarter results showed that operating revenue for the first three months of the year rose 4% from the prior-year period, driven by a strong performance in its consumer segment which was up 4.7%. For all of 2020, this area of its business, which is its largest, was down 2.8%. For 2021, the company projects that its adjusted per-share profits will come in between $5 and $5.15, which would put its payout ratio based on that metric at about 56%.

Over the past 12 months, Verizon's stock has done a bit better than Gilead's, rising 6%. That's still well below the S&P 500's performance, but for income investors, this isn't necessarily a bad thing -- an increase in the share price means a lower yield. Buying these dividend stocks now may be a great move. It could be only a matter of time before investors turn away from high-priced growth stocks and into safe income investments like Verizon.

David Jagielski has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Gilead Sciences. The Motley Fool recommends Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Gilead Sciences, Inc. Stock Quote
Gilead Sciences, Inc.
$66.21 (5.16%) $3.25
Verizon Communications Inc. Stock Quote
Verizon Communications Inc.
$45.56 (0.91%) $0.41

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