It's easy to lose sight of the benefits of reliable dividend stocks during a smoking hot market. After all, what's the difference between a 2% or 4% dividend yield when the stock market is doubling every five years?
Growth can be a key component of a well-rounded portfolio. But investors who want to combat inflation, supplement a portion of their income, hold less volatile assets, and stand a better chance of surviving a stock market crash may find dividend stocks appealing. With that, we asked some of our contributors which dividend stocks were worth buying in July. Here's why they chose Raytheon Technologies (RTX 0.66%), Air Products and Chemicals (APD 1.53%), and Clorox (CLX 0.71%).
Lee Samaha (Raytheon Technologies): It may seem strange to recommend an aerospace supplier as a dividend stock in the current environment, not least because it's going to take a few years for commercial flight departures to return to the levels of 2019.
But here's the thing, or rather the three things. First, based on management's projections, Raytheon's dividend, with its current yield of 2.4%, will be easily covered by free cash flow (FCF). For example, Raytheon's trailing-12-month dividend payout is around $2.8 billion, but management believes the company will generate at least $4.5 billion in FCF in 2021.
Second, given that the commercial aviation market is highly likely to be on a multiyear growth path, Raytheon's FCF is set to improve markedly from 2021 onward. CEO Greg Hayes believes FCF will return to $8 billion to $9 billion "over the next several years."
Third, Raytheon's defense businesses provide investors with the added security that the company will have an underlying stable source of earnings and cash flow if anything goes wrong with the commercial aviation recovery.
The company gives its second-quarter earnings on July 27. The report will provide investors with an update on its progress and management's outlook for the rest of the year. Given that Airbus recently told its suppliers to prepare for a ramp-up in the A320 family production rate from 45 a month in the fourth quarter of 2021 to 64 a month by the second quarter of 2023, it's clear that the market is recovering quickly. Investors can expect Raytheon to report some similarly positive news -- and with a well-covered dividend, the stock is a good investment option.
Hit the gas with this Dividend Aristocrat
Scott Levine (Air Products and Chemicals): It's not every day that you can find an elite dividend-paying stock that also offers exposure to a trillion-dollar growth opportunity. But that's exactly what Air Products, a provider of industrial gases and related equipment, offers investors right now. A Dividend Aristocrat, Air Products has consistently raised its dividend for 39 years, and it holds a commanding position in the burgeoning hydrogen economy -- an investment opportunity that some analysts estimate will be worth $15 trillion by 2050.
Offering a forward dividend yield of 2.1% on its stock, Air Products is far from jeopardizing its financial health to reward shareholders. In 2020, the company had a conservative payout ratio of 58%. Taking the longer view, investors will find the company's attention to its financial well-being transcends one year. Over the past 10 years, Air Products has proved its circumspect approach to returning cash to shareholders, averaging a payout ratio of 55.3%. Need further evidence that the company is in good financial health to support its payout? Consider that it isn't relying too heavily on leverage to support operations; at the end of Q2 2021, Air Products had a net debt-to-EBITDA ratio of 0.48.
Aside from its noble history as a Dividend Aristocrat, what I find particularly appealing about Air Products is the steps that it's taking to profit from the global embrace of hydrogen. Last month, for example, Air Products announced that it is partnering with Baker Hughes to reduce the cost of hydrogen, making it more appealing to potential customers. According to Air Products, it will use hydrogen compression and gas turbine technology from Baker Hughes in two major hydrogen projects that are in development: an approximate $1.1 billion net-zero hydrogen energy facility in Edmonton, Alberta, and the carbon-free NEOM project located in Saudi Arabia.
The old faithful consumer staple
Daniel Foelber (Clorox): As with most bull markets, the consumer-staples sector is lagging behind the market averages.
Consumer-staple companies tend to generate consistently mediocre profits in good times and bad, which sounds rather dull during a growth-oriented market. But in a downturn, this boring business model looks rather rosy when everything else is bleeding red. In fact, many consumer-staple companies suffered only minor drawdowns during the Great Recession, which is a core reason consumer staples were the best performing sector in 2008.
The S&P 500 set a fresh all-time high on Friday and is now up nearly 16% year to date. The economy is roaring, unemployment is dropping, and there are very good reasons investors should stay optimistic. However, now could also be as good a time as any to consider safer companies like Clorox. The pandemic helped propel Clorox's revenue and net income to record highs. The issue is that the company is unlikely to top that impressive performance this year, which is probably going to result in negative growth.
The bottom line is that comparisons are relative. A company's performance can be awful one year and average the next, but its comps will look fantastic. By contrast, a company can produce record results one year and then very good results the next, making comparisons look poor. Clorox seems to fall into this second category.
Guidance for fiscal 2021, which ended on June 30 and will be reported on Aug. 3, calls for 10% to 13% organic sales growth and $7.45 to $7.65 in adjusted earnings per share -- which would give it an adjusted price to earnings (P/E) ratio of around 24 Digging deeper, most of Clorox's excellent numbers are due to its strong second half 2020 results. Despite a slowdown, the company is well on track to generate tons of FCF to support its dividend. In early June, Clorox raised its quarterly dividend to $1.16 per share, maintaining its status as a Dividend Aristocrat. At its current price of around $180 per share, Clorox has a dividend yield of 2.6%. In sum, it's a successful business with the potential to be a reliable dividend stock. That's much more important than short-term comparisons.