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3 Top Dividend Stocks to Buy Now

By James Brumley – Aug 28, 2021 at 7:55AM

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The key to a great dividend-paying stock is to be sure the business is recession-proof.

Do you need a little more income from your portfolio? Maybe you just need to replace some dividend stocks you've recently shed. Regardless of the reason, the low-interest-rate environment is probably limiting your higher-yielding stock choices as well.

There are a few dividend-paying names still out there, however, with above-average yields at below-average risk. Here's a rundown of three of the best of these income-oriented options right now. In no particular order, they are...

1. Walgreens Boots Alliance

Dividend yield: 4%

You probably know the Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA 1.02%) company better as just Walgreens; Boots is its U.K.-based counterpart. The two drugstore chains merged in 2014.

Rolled up $100 bills, a calculator, and a stack of Post-it notes lying on a desk, with the word "dividends" written on the top note.

Image source: Getty Images.

Whatever the case, the combined company has continued performing following the completion of the pairing in a challenging, saturated, and increasingly regulated market -- at least by drugstore standards. Although this year's top line is projected to fall from last year's pandemic-prompted surge, next year's expected 3.6% sales growth is projected to drive the company to a full-year profit of $5.05 per share. That's still below 2019's record of $5.99 per share, but it rekindles a growth trend that's been in place for over a couple of decades now.

The real story here, however, isn't the persistent earnings growth. It's not the average dividend growth of nearly 8% per year for the past 10 years either. It's not even the fact that the company has now raised its dividend payout every year for the past 45 years, which easily qualifies it as a Dividend Aristocrat (S&P 500 companies that have raised their dividend annually for at least 25 straight years).

Rather, the chief reason Walgreens Boots Alliance is such a great dividend name to own is how easily the organization can fund its dividend payments. The current annualized payout of $1.88 per share leaves more than half of the company's profits behind to fund new growth initiatives. It also leaves plenty of wiggle room should things temporarily turn fiscally tough, as they did in fiscal 2020. The stock's 13% price slide from June's highs only makes it a more compelling dividend prospect.

2. Kimberly-Clark

Dividend yield: 3.4%

It's possible you're a regular customer of Kimberly-Clark (KMB 1.85%) without even realizing it. This is the parent to Cottonelle bathroom tissue, Scott paper towels, and Huggies diapers, just to name a few of its popular brands.

The paper-based and pulp-based product business is a tricky one. These companies are highly subject to commodity inflation -- wood prices in particular -- that can't always be passed along to customers. Indeed, Kimberly-Clark already cautioned North America's consumers earlier this year that price increases were coming in June. Consumers are only paying for price hikes in the "mid-to-high single digits," but the nickels and dimes add up. It's also a brutally competitive industry, driving at least a modest price war with rivals like Procter & Gamble and Georgia-Pacific.

Don't look past the fact, however, that paper towels and toilet paper are recession-proof businesses made up of a consumer base that's surprisingly brand-loyal. That's not a coincidence either. All of these companies not only wield great influence with retailers, but they all also make a point of subtly fostering this loyalty by developing relationships with their customers, perhaps Kimberly-Clark most of all. And after being in the business for several decades, the company's marketing pros are very, very good at their jobs.

That success shines through in the form of results, and the dividend in particular. Not only has the company been able to raise its annual dividend payment in each of the past 49 years (another Dividend Aristocrat!), it's raised it firmly. The current quarterly payout of $1.14 per share is nearly twice the $0.67 per share it was dishing out quarterly just 10 years ago. That's an annualized growth rate of more than 5%, handily outpacing inflation.

3. Archer Daniels Midland

Dividend yield: 2.5%

Finally, add food company Archer Daniels Midland (ADM 1.09%) to your list of dividend stocks to buy now while its stock price is down 12% from May's highs. This company's become a big hit in the midst of the pandemic, and as you're about to read, this improved stature may be a permanent change that soon prompts higher stock prices again.

Admittedly, the current yield of 2.5% isn't exactly thrilling. The agriculture industry has also historically been a low-growth one, and much like the paper business, it's an industry that's overly vulnerable to cost increases that can't always be passed along to customers.

The fact is, however, farming is also a recession-proof business. It may also be nearing a tipping point in terms of greater growth that gives these names more pricing power.

Simply put, the world's population of nearly 8 billion people (according to Worldometer) already needs more food than the planet can readily produce and deliver, and the challenge is only going to get tougher. Data from the World Resources Institute suggests worldwide crop production will need to double by 2050 to feed the 10 billion people that will be populating the globe then. We're already seeing clear evidence of this ever-expanding need too. The United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization's food price index now stands at record-high levels, partially as the result of inflation, but also largely as a result of the growing strains on supply relative to demand.

That's not to suggest investors should make a point of seeking out ways to capitalize on humanitarian crises. The growth opportunity for Archer Daniels Midland is still clear, however, setting the stage for perhaps another 47 consecutive years of annual dividend increases as the Dividend Aristocrat has done for the past 47 years.

James Brumley has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Archer-Daniels-Midland Stock Quote
$97.50 (1.09%) $1.05
Walgreens Boots Alliance Stock Quote
Walgreens Boots Alliance
$41.50 (1.02%) $0.42
Kimberly-Clark Stock Quote
$135.63 (1.85%) $2.47

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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