A recent survey of professional money managers showed that there is an overwhelming shift toward stocks that pay high dividends. Some 42%, the highest response, said they are most likely to buy stocks with high dividends now, given the expectations for a continuing malaise in the stock market.
Dividend stocks are indeed more popular in market corrections and bear markets, as they help to boost total returns. If you are looking to add some dividend stocks, here are the three that currently pay the highest yields in the S&P 500.
1. Lumen Technologies: 9.29% yield
Lumen Technologies (LUMN -1.95%) currently has the highest yield in the S&P 500 at 9.29%. The telecommunications company, which had been known as CenturyLink until 2020, is currently trading at about $10.50 per share, down about 16% year to date and 20% over the past year as of July 14.
It has been a difficult few years for Lumen as its price is down about 54% over the past five years. In 2019, the company reduced its per-share dividend from $0.54 to $0.25, where it has stayed ever since. It currently pays $1 per share annually.
The company has been in turnaround mode, as it has sold off a ton of assets in an effort to strategically reinvest with some new pending acquisitions to help it grow. The company saw net income increase 26% in the first quarter year over year and increased its outlook for free cash flow for 2022. With a payout ratio of 49%, Lumen's dividend looks to be pretty sustainable.
2. Altria Group: 8.58% yield
Altria Group (MO -1.35%), one of the leading manufacturers of cigarettes and nicotine products, has the second-highest dividend yield on the S&P 500 at 8.58%. The stock is currently trading at about $42 per share, down about 12% year to date and about the same over the past year.
The company had a solid first quarter, with revenue down just 2% year over year and earnings per share up 40%. At the annual meeting in May, Altria executives maintained their full-year guidance for 2022, calling for a 4% to 7% increase in annual earnings. It has proved to be a solid defensive stock in a volatile market.
The company currently pays a dividend of $0.90 per share, which comes out to $3.60 annually. It has been a reliable payer over the years, increasing its payouts on an annual basis for 18 consecutive years.
One concern is the payout ratio, which stands at 76%. It also has a lot of debt, about $25 billion, with a negative debt-to-equity ratio. It has been working to pay down its debt, but that is a stat for investors to keep an eye on, since it can affect the dividend.
3. Pioneer Natural Resources: 8% yield
Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD 0.04%) is an oil driller and producer working out of the Permian Basin in Texas. It offers the third-highest dividend yield in the S&P 500 at present at 8%.
Pioneer is one of the few companies in the S&P 500 that not only has a high dividend, but also a positive return. The stock price is up 11% year to date and has gained more than 33% over the past year. Pioneer had a huge first quarter as oil prices soared; it posted a 158% increase in revenue to $6.2 billion year over year and $2 billion in net income, up from a net loss in the first quarter of 2021.
Pioneer changed its dividend last year to a fixed-plus-variable framework, which other oil companies have done as well. This is meant to pay back shareholders when oil prices are high. So it pays a base dividend as well as a variable dividend each quarter. The variable dividend amounts to 75% of free cash flow per quarter.
After the huge first quarter, Pioneer paid out an astronomical $7.38 dividend in the second quarter, including the base dividend. While oil prices are cooling down, they will remain robust, and that's good news for Pioneer Natural Resources dividend investors.
Some caveats about these stocks
Keep in mind that just because these stocks have the highest dividends doesn't necessarily mean they are the best dividend stocks; several factors go into that determination.
It is important to look at cash and free cash flow, the earnings history as well as the outlook, macroeconomic factors that could affect earnings, the dividend payout ratio, as well as the company's consistency in maintaining or raising its dividend. But yield is definitely a good place to start, and there are none higher than with these three stocks.