Inflationary pressures have been a hot topic for investors over the past year. In April, the consumer price index (CPI) showed inflation at 8.3%. While this was down slightly from March's reading, it represented the 12th month in a row of inflation topping 5%.
When inflation is elevated, many investors turn to dividend stocks as a good source of market returns. According to Fidelity, dividends have accounted for 40% of the S&P 500's total returns since the 1930s. And during inflationary periods, these stocks account for an even larger share of market returns. During the inflationary decades of the 1940s and 1970s, dividends accounted for 65% and 71%, respectively, of the market's total returns.
Three dividend stocks you could buy today that can help you crush inflation and higher interest rates to come are U.S. Bancorp (USB -1.26%), United Bankshares (UBSI -0.23%), and Unum Group (UNM -0.77%).
1. U.S. Bancorp: 3.6% dividend yield
U.S. Bancorp is a solid bank you can own stock in that will benefit from rising interest rates. Bank stocks can do well in times of rising interest rates because they make money from the interest rate spread. The interest rate spread is the difference between the interest rate paid out on deposits from the interest rate collected on loans. The difference accounts for something better known as net interest income (NII) -- one of the more traditional ways banks make money.
U.S. Bancorp is one bank that could benefit from rising rates more than the others because of its heavy reliance on traditional banking activities -- deposits and loans -- compared to the competition. According to a recent filing, U.S. Bancorp said its net interest income would increase 3.3% over the next 12 months if interest rates rose gradually another 2% from here.
U.S. Bancorp has been positioning itself for higher interest rates too. Last year the bank sacrificed short-term profits from net interest income so that it had greater flexibility to take advantage of rising interest rates in 2022 and 2023.
U.S. Bancorp delivers investors a solid yield, has a strong balance sheet ready for higher interest rates and trades at a cheap valuation with a price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) of 10.9.
2. United Bankshares: 3.9% dividend yield
United Bankshares is a regional bank with branches across the mid-Atlantic, including Virginia and Washington, D.C. What this bank has done exceptionally well is growing through acquisitions. Since 1982, United Bankshares has added 33 regional banks to its business. Its most recent acquisition, Community Banker Trust Corp., was closed in December of last year and gave it additional branches in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
As a bank stock, United Bankshares welcomes the higher interest rates that come with inflation. Last year the bank brought in $743 million in NII and projects that figure to grow 8% to 10% in 2022.
United Bankshares also has a stellar dividend yield and has a history of increasing its dividend payout. The bank has increased its dividend payment annually for 48 years straight, but it tends to get overlooked because it isn't in the S&P 500. If it were in the index, its payment history would earn it the exclusive Dividend Aristocrats designation and only two years away from the even more exclusive Dividend Kings designation.
3. Unum Group: 3.5% dividend yield
Unum Group is an insurer that provides employee benefits such as dental, vision, and life insurance to companies. When the pandemic first emerged in 2020, Unum Group struggled as unemployment rates exploded and life insurance policy claims ticked up higher.
In the first quarter of this year, Unum Group saw premiums increase just 1%, but a reduction in claims payments helped it see adjusted operating income grow 31% from last year.
Executives for the company are encouraged and expect premium growth to continue while claims payouts decrease moving forward. As a result, the company raised its guidance on adjusted operating income per share, expecting growth of 15% to 20% in 2022. This is a drastic increase from its previously guided growth of 4% to 7%.
The company has a strong balance sheet with $1.3 billion in cash and liquid assets -- an excellent sign for dividend investors and trades at a cheap price with a P/E ratio of 7.6.