In periods of rising inflation and slowing economic growth, investors have historically turned to dividend stocks to see them through. A company that continues to make its payouts through periods of turmoil is confirming a belief in the strength of its business.
The asset managers at Hartford Funds looked at the performance of the benchmark S&P 500 going all the way back to 1930 and found that dividends contributed 40% to the total return of the index over that 91-year period.
Through wars and recessions, terrorist attacks and pandemics, dividend stocks as a category have always generated positive returns, even during the so-called "lost decade" of the 2000s when the dot-com bubble burst, 9/11 happened, and the financial markets brought down the housing market. Through it all, dividend stocks returned 1.8% for investors while the S&P 500 generated negative returns.
The following two income stocks have been having a banner year of their own in 2022, and there could be more to come.
Cereal maker General Mills (GIS 0.38%) just reported fiscal fourth-quarter results that handily trounced Wall Street expectations. Profits doubled from a year ago, leading it to hike its dividend by 6% to $0.54 per share. The payout is currently yielding 2.9% annually.
While inflation and supply chain issues will likely constrain performance in the months ahead, the owner of Cheerios, Wheaties, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, and other name-brand category leaders was able to raise prices to offset the impacts while using its scale to ensure its products remained on store shelves.
Proving that consumers will pay up for the consistency of quality associated with name brands, sales were up 8% to $4.9 billion even though the company faced a headwind from selling its yogurt business. Adjusted earnings of $1.35 per share were up 98% from a year ago as a result.
One of its fastest growing businesses is pet food and products, which saw sales jump 35% year over year, reflecting the acquisition it made of the Nudges, True Chews, and Top Chews pet treat brands last year. It was a smart move by the cereal maker as pets tend to be an especially resilient segment regardless of economic conditions.
Food stocks generally are a solid -- albeit slow-growing -- investment because like pets, people still need to eat. With a portfolio of well-regarded household name brands, General Mills should be able to maintain its current trajectory for some time to come.
British American Tobacco
Pets aren't the only business to hold up well during a downturn. Tobacco stocks also survive troubled times as people continue to smoke. And while a secular trend is seeing more people quit each year, there remain tens of millions of people who still do so globally. British American Tobacco (BTI 0.39%) is a prime beneficiary.
Shares of the cigarette maker are up 18% in 2022 and have bounced more than 30% above the lows they were trading at in late December. Much of it has to do with wins it received in the U.S. market after the U.S. International Trade Commission agreed Philip Morris International's IQOS heated tobacco device infringed on British American's patents and its import was banned.
British American's Vuse electronic cigarette had already swept ahead of the previous market leader, Juul, in market share. Now, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) denying Juul's marketing application, which effectively bans the device from store shelves (although a court has temporarily issued an injunction on the decision), the tobacco giant may very well have almost the entire market to itself.
Still, it faces some risk, too. The FDA, for instance, wants to mandate only very low-nicotine cigarettes can be sold, and it's looking to ban menthol cigarettes as well. If approved, both of those could cause British American to take a hit.
That's likely at least years in the future, though, and many court cases to come. But with a strong position in tobacco and a leading -- and perhaps soon to be all-encompassing -- position in smoking alternatives, British American should continue to grow. Its dividend currently yields 8.2% annually, which ought to help investors smooth out any bumps and dips it encounters along the way.