Time and again, the stock market demonstrates the power of patience for investors. Despite the widely followed S&P 500 undergoing 38 double-digit corrections since the beginning of 1950, each and every one of these sizable declines was eventually put into the rearview mirror by a bull market rally.
While myriad investing strategies have been effective in making long-term investors richer, perhaps none has a greater track record than buying into dividend stocks.
Dividend stocks have a rich history of crushing their non-dividend-paying peers
Back in 2013, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, a division of JPMorgan Chase, issued a report that compared the performance of publicly traded companies that initiated a dividend and grew their payouts to public companies that didn't pay a dividend between 1972 and 2012. Over this four-decade stretch, the dividend-paying stocks completely stomped the non-dividend payers on an annualized-return basis (9.5% vs. 1.6%).
These are precisely the results we'd expect. Companies that pay a regular dividend are almost always profitable, time-tested, and have transparent outlooks. In other words, they're consistent businesses we'd expect to grow in value over time.
The single-biggest challenge for dividend investors is simply balancing yield and risk. Ideally, income seekers want as big of a yield as possible with the least amount of risk. However, data has shown that risk and yield tend to correlate once a payout reaches high-yield territory (4% and above). Since yield is a function of payout relative to share price, a struggling business with a plunging share price might present a high yield but be nothing more than an income trap.
The good news is that there are stable companies with ultra-high-yield dividends -- a yield I'm arbitrarily defining as 7% or higher -- that can provide investors with inflation-crushing income.
The following trio of ultra-high-yield stocks sports an average yield of 9.31%. Put another way, you could generate $10,000 in dividend income in 2022 by investing $108,000 and splitting it equally into the following three stocks.
Annaly Capital Management: 10.89% yield
The first ultra-high-yield dividend stock with a rich history of padding the pocketbooks of its shareholders is Annaly Capital Management (NLY 2.15%). Since the company was founded a quarter-century ago, it's paid out over $20 billion in dividend payments and has averaged a roughly 10% yield over the past two decades. On this list, its 10.89% yield is top dog.
Annaly Capital Management is a mortgage real estate investment trust (REIT). In easy-to-understand terms, Annaly wants to borrow money for the lowest short-term lending rate possible and use this capital to purchase higher-yielding long-term assets, like mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The average yield Annaly receives from its asset portfolio, minus its average borrowing rate, is what's known as its net interest margin. The wider this net interest margin, the (often) more profitable the mortgage REIT.
For Annaly and its peers, nothing is more important than interest rates. Although a low-interest-rate environment is more favorable than a rising-rate environment, the speed at which monetary policy changes are undertaken takes precedence. If the Federal Reserve takes slow and decisive steps in altering its monetary policy, it allows Annaly time to adjust its asset portfolio to maximize profitability. Even though rates are likely to rise in 2022 as the nation's central bank turns hawkish, the Fed's clearly laid-out intentions provide a path for Annaly to continue to thrive.
Furthermore, mortgage REITs have a history of outperforming during economic recoveries, which is where we find ourselves at the moment. It's quite common for the interest-rate yield curve to steepen when bouncing back from a recession. This involves the gap in yield between short- and long-term Treasury bonds widening. When that happens, Annaly's net interest margin typically expands.
With Annaly currently trading slightly below book value and entering its historic sweet spot, investors can feel confident adding this income powerhouse to their portfolios.
Enterprise Products Partners: 7.78% yield
Another ultra-high-yield dividend stock that can help investors generate a mountain of income in 2022 is Enterprise Products Partners (EPD 0.80%). Although its 7.78% yield is the lowest yield among this trio, the company is working on a 23-year streak of raising its base annual payout.
For some folks, the idea of putting their money to work in any company tied to the oil and gas industry isn't palatable -- and it's not hard to understand why. In 2020, crude oil suffered through an historic demand drawdown that cratered the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude. Highly indebted drilling-and-exploration companies were decimated.
What sets Enterprise Products Partners apart is its role as a midstream provider. Midstream oil and gas companies own the pipelines responsible for transmission and the storage facilities used to hold oil or natural gas. Enterprise Products Partners has around 50,000 miles of pipeline, can store 14 billion cubic feet of natural gas, and has 19 natural-gas processing facilities.
The beauty of the company's operating model is how its contracts are structured. Whereas fluctuations in WTI can directly impact drilling companies, Enterprise Products Partners' contracts provide price and volume commitments that allow it to transparently forecast its cash flow. This transparency has been key to the company setting aside capital for new infrastructure projects without compromising profitability or its huge payout.
At no point during the pandemic was the company's distribution at risk of being cut. With WTI now rebounding to multiyear highs, Enterprise Products is a good bet to continue its streak of annual base-payout increases in 2022.
AGNC Investment Corp.: 9.25% yield
The final ultra-high-yield stock to complete the trio is AGNC Investment Corp. (AGNC 1.83%). AGNC has averaged a double-digit yield in 11 of the past 12 years, and it's the only one of these three income stocks to pay a monthly dividend.
AGNC is yet another mortgage REIT primed for good things in 2022 and beyond. As noted with Annaly, this industry is highly interest-rate sensitive. Though the Fed raising rates has the potential to increase the company's short-term borrowing costs, it's far more important that the nation's central bank doesn't make any sudden or unexpected monetary-policy moves. As long as the federal funds target rate is increased by 25 basis points at a time during regularly scheduled meetings, AGNC will have plenty of opportunity to alter its asset portfolio and maximize its profit potential.
Something else to understand about AGNC, which also holds true for Annaly, is its focus on agency securities. An agency asset is backed by the federal government in the event of default. As you might imagine, this added protection lowers the yield AGNC (and Annaly) can expect to receive on the agency MBS it buys, relative to non-agency assets. On the other hand, this protection allows AGNC to safely lever its portfolio to pump up its income potential.
With the Fed clearly laying out its policy intentions, and the mortgage REIT industry offering highly predictable cash flow, it's common for mortgage REITs like AGNC to trade near their book values. But at the moment, AGNC can be scooped up for 11% below book value. That's an incredible bargain for a company entering what's historically been a period of growth for it and its peers.