Dividend stocks are the cornerstone of many well-run retirement portfolios -- that's a fact. The reason is that dividends act as a beacon to investors, inviting them to take a deeper look into a company whose business model is so sound it can pay out a percentage of its annual profits to its investors on a regular basis.
Further, dividends can provide a downside hedge in volatile and bear markets. Investors in dividend stocks tend to be more long-term-oriented, which usually makes for less day trading and volatility. Lastly, dividends can be reinvested, giving buyers a chance to compound their gains over the long run. These payouts can mean the difference between simply retiring, and living out your dream retirement.
With that in mind, let's have a look at three cheap dividend stocks you should consider buying right now.
1. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)
By and large, shareholders of chipmaking giant Intel have to be pleased with their shares' performance in 2014, with the company meeting or exceeding expectations in a number of key sale and profit metrics. It was the company's first-quarter forecast that didn't quite go over as well.
For the upcoming quarter, Intel sees revenue clocking in at $13.7 billion (a minuscule amount below Wall Street forecasts) with gross margin of 60% at the midpoint. Add to that Intel's gross margin of 62% for full-year 2014, and you have all the reasons why Wall Street is skeptical. It's no secret that Intel is spending heavily on data center and cloud hardware in an effort to catch up to its rivals, and the concern is that this high level of spending, while setting up Intel for long-term success, could hamper its near-term profitability. It also hasn't helped that Intel's foray into mobile chips has been disappointing, to put it mildly.
But, I'd suggest Intel has made more than enough headway in its new core areas of focus that a near-term expense increase should be welcomed, not shunned.
In the fourth quarter, Intel reported a 10% year-over-year increase in its Internet of Things segment revenue to $591 million, and a 25% year-over-year jump in its data center group revenue to $4.1 billion. Even with its mobile segment falling flat on its face, and its microprocessor division holding its own with minimal growth, Intel's high-growth segments now represent nearly a third of its total revenue. If Intel can continue to grow these segments by at least 10%, which seems like a conservative estimate in my opinion, they'll represent around 40% of Intel's sales by 2017.
I also find it intriguing that the PC market appears to have hit a trough, at least for the time being. Pundits had expected continuous declines in the PC due to tablets and other mobile devices, but it appears the relative cheapness of the desktop and laptop is still enough to continue attracting consumers. Foolish technology specialist Ashraf Eassa believes the PC group could actually grow at a modest 1%-3% per year moving forward.
All told, we're looking at a company valued at just 13 times forward earnings that's sporting an S&P 500-trouncing dividend yield of 2.8%. Don't forget: Intel's dividend has jumped by 500% over the past 11 years, making it a particularly cheap dividend stock you can consider in the technology sector.
2. Johnson Controls (NYSE:JCI)
Raise your hand if you've heard of Johnson Controls. Chances are you didn't raise your hand, as Johnson Controls tends to work in the background with big companies rather than the public. But, just because you may not have heard of this $31 billion giant doesn't mean it can't add some pep to your portfolio.
Johnson Controls works out of three primary segments. Its building efficiency segment designs and installs heating, ventilation, and air conditions systems for commercial clients. Its power solutions division manufactures lead-acid batteries and next-generation battery technologies for hybrid and electric vehicles. Lastly, its automotive experience operations manufacture interior products and electrical systems for vehicles.
As you can see, a bet on Johnson Controls is a big bet on the auto industry's future and a presumption that the global economy continues to improve for its HVAC segment. Thankfully, we have pretty good news on both fronts.
According to a study conducted by Urban Science and released last week, the average U.S. dealership sold 921 vehicles last year, up from 874 units in 2013, an average of 812 in 2012, and a paltry 564 in 2009 during the height of the recession. Demand in markets like China and India are also rising and accommodating the entrance of new players. The point is, consumers have an appetite for newer and more fuel-efficient cars, resulting in better demand for Johnson Controls' products.
Regarding its commercial-facing segment, Johnson Controls can fall back on what should be GDP growth of around 3% in the U.S. in 2015, as well as persistently low lending rates, which could fuel hiring and business expansion.
Johnson Controls' forward P/E of 12 and its dividend yield of 2.2% just might just be a bargain considering the strength of the global auto industry and U.S. economy.
3. The GEO Group (NYSE:GEO)
Lastly, I'd suggest that in spite of its incredible run higher over the past years, the GEO Group could be a cheap dividend stock income investors will want to have on their radars.
The GEO Group is a real estate investment trust that develops and operates correction and detention facilities primarily in the U.S. Worldwide, the company has nearly 100 facilities under management with more than 78,000 beds.
In its latest quarterly report from November, GEO Group announced a 24% increase in its normalized funds from operation and nearly a 20% increase in its net operating income. GEO cited "strong occupancy rates" as the primary growth driver, although it's used new contracts and revenue from overseeing the construction of new detention facilities as a means to boost its top and bottom lines.
One of the smartest moves GEO's management team made was converting to a REIT back in early 2013. As a REIT, GEO Group isn't taxed at the corporate tax rate in exchange for paying out 90% or more of its profits to shareholders in the form of a dividend. The results are better profitability for GEO and a beefy 5.6% yield for GEO Group shareholders. That's closing in on three times the average yield for the S&P 500.
With little standing in the way of global corrections facility growth, I happen to like GEO's reasonably low forward P/E of just 14.