In today's market of historically low interest rates, quality yield plays are hard to find. Sure, you can find stocks whose share prices have gotten crushed and offer high dividend yields, but those dividends are in danger of being slashed due to questionable fundamentals.
That's why finding companies that pay high -- and, more importantly, safe -- yields is extremely difficult. Even after the post-jobs-report rally in the bond market, 10-year Treasuries still yield just 2.75%. A stock market soaring to new highs hasn't helped income seekers either; the S&P 500 index offers just a 2% yield.
As a result, for the right mix of yield and sustainability, look to these three stocks with easy-to-understand businesses and familiar brands.
Great stocks with great yields
You might think a gigantic telecommunications company can't possibly provide great returns, but Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is in full-on growth mode. The company, thanks in large part to its stake in Verizon Wireless, posted 4% revenue growth and 22% operating profit growth through the first nine months of its fiscal year. Thankfully, Verizon uses a good amount of its cash flows to pay a 4.2% dividend to shareholders.
Going forward, Verizon expects great things for its industry and itself thanks to the boom in global smartphone usage. This is what compelled CEO Lowell McAdam to declare, "We're in a golden age of innovation," believing the world is about to embark on a new era in communications
Meanwhile, food giant Kraft Foods (UNKNOWN:KRFT.DL) has recently spun off several of its major brands, but it still holds a large portfolio of products that are used every day by millions of consumers. These include Kraft, Maxwell House, and Oscar Mayer. The beauty of a consumer goods company is that its products are bought and sold regardless of the broader economy. Even when the economy takes a nosedive, people still need to eat.
This consistency is what allows Kraft to provide its investors a solid 4% dividend and regular dividend increases. In October, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of being an independent company, Kraft gave its investors a solid 5% dividend increase.
Finally, defense giant Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) has proven throughout the year that it can meet global security challenges, even amid sequestration, and the threat of defense budget cuts. Even though revenue fell 3.5% over the first nine months of the year, operating profit is up 9% thanks to laser-like cost controls and accretive share buybacks. Lockheed Martin devotes billions to buying back shares and paying a substantial dividend.
Lockheed's recent track record of deploying cash to shareholders is truly impressive. In September, the company upped its dividend payout by 16%, marking 11 consecutive years of double-digit dividend increases. Looking back even further, Lockheed has increased its dividend by 18% compounded annually over the past five years. For a stock that already provides a nearly 4% yield, that means serious income-generation over many years of reinvested dividends.
The Foolish conclusion
While all investors like to see the markets continue to breach new all-time highs, the downside is that investors who seek income are getting a crummy deal. And when you consider the ultra-easy monetary policy currently utilized by the Federal Reserve, savers are in a bind. Traditional bank products like certificates of deposit pay almost nothing, and even riskier assets like bonds offer very little.
Never fear, income investors. If you're willing to wade into the waters of individual equities, you'll be handsomely rewarded with high dividend yields. These great companies have paid and raised dividends for many years and should continue to do so for the foreseeable future thanks to their strong management teams and excellent underlying businesses. Therefore Verizon, Kraft Foods, and Lockheed Martin look like high-quality stocks with hefty dividends that you can buy and hold for many years to come.