The S&P 500 Index has a miserly yield of just 1.3%. But that's a mixture of companies, with stocks offering no yield offsetting names that have quite attractive yields. Here are five of the best dividend-paying companies in this investment benchmark.
1. Stuck in the middle
Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI) is one of the largest midstream companies in North America, helping to move oil and natural gas from where it is drilled to where it eventually gets used. Its portfolio of pipelines, storage, and processing assets would be virtually impossible to replace. Its business is largely fee-based, as it gets paid based on the use of its system and not on the price of the commodities flowing through it.
The yield is a hefty 6.7% right now. To be fair, the dividend was cut in 2016 after management had previously suggested a dividend increase was in the cards, which may turn off more conservative investors. However, the company has since gotten back on the dividend growth path, and has been careful to ensure it can support its dividend over the long term this time around.
2. The best balance sheet in oil
Sticking with the energy theme, the next name up is U.S. integrated oil giant Chevron (NYSE:CVX). Commodity prices drive the top and bottom lines here, which can make earnings quite volatile. However, Chevron has the strongest balance sheet in its peer group (the debt-to-equity ratio is a modest 0.33 times), providing a solid financial foundation. And despite the often material ups and downs of oil prices, it has strung together an incredible 34 years worth of annual dividend hikes, making it a Dividend Aristocrat. Management clearly knows how to deal with a volatile commodity market.
Right now the yield is a historically generous 5.5%.
3. Far from dead
Mall landlord Simon Property Group (NYSE:SPG) and its 4.5% dividend yield might be a tough sell for some investors. That's fair, given that this real estate investment trust wound up cutting its dividend in 2020 as it dealt with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the over-200 properties Simon owns are generally well located and likely to end up benefiting from the troubles in the mall space. That's because as weaker malls close, the remaining malls become more attractive to shoppers and retailers in a reverse networking effect.
But what's really interesting here is that Simon increased its full-year 2021 earnings guidance in each of the first and second quarters. It also hiked its dividend each quarter as well. While some investors may fear that the mall is dead, Simon appears to be bouncing back strongly after a tough year and proving that its death has been greatly exaggerated. More aggressive investors might find this contrarian high-yield play alluring.
4. Hidden success
Food maker Kellogg (NYSE:K) is a name that you probably know because of its iconic list of cereal brands. However, management has been overhauling the company's portfolio in recent years. Cereal is now just a third or so of the business, with snacks at roughly 50% and frozen foods the remainder. Snacks is a faster-growing industry segment, so this is fairly solid decision that follows along with customer demand.
Kellogg has also been building a position in the emerging African market (where noodles are a key product), which should help support long-term growth.
The problem is that the big repositioning was completed just in time for the coronavirus to complicate the progress this food company was making. But if you look over a two year period, which helps to even out the unusual demand jump in 2020, annualized organic sales growth is a strong 5%. In other words, it looks like Kellogg is moving in the right direction. Meanwhile, the yield is a historically high 3.6% or so.
5. Ready for dividend growth
Utility Dominion Energy (NYSE:D) is another name that cut its dividend recently, but that's because it sold a major portion of its business in something of a conservative reset. It was the culmination of a multi-year effort to simplify its operations and, just as important, reduce risk. Today it is basically a boring old utility.
However, thanks to the reset dividend, it is now in a position to start hiking the quarterly disbursement by a projected 6% a year over the foreseeable future. That is an impressive number for a utility, and is expected to be driven by regulator-approved spending that allows for regular price hikes. And while you can probably find a utility with a higher yield than Dominion's 3.4%, the mix of yield and dividend growth is actually quite compelling.
Good yields exist if you look hard enough
The elevated level of the broader market has left the yield on the S&P 500 at a painfully low level. But that doesn't mean you can't find sizable yields on offer from good companies. You just have to dig a little deeper to pick them out. All five of the names here have relatively generous yields and strong backstories. Do a deep dive on them and you might find that one -- or more -- ends up in your portfolio today.