With the threat of a government shutdown and weak global data causing a decline in the market, it might be prudent for investors take a look at dividend stocks. Dividends are the safety net we can all fall back on when there are times of worry or panic, and there are numerous options on sale right now. However, we must still choose wisely, as many companies could cut their dividends or do away with the distributions entirely if it gets bad enough. Here are three companies that have high yields that are completely safe in today's market:
General Mills (NYSE:GIS)General Mills is the parent company behind Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Haagen-Dazs, Green Giant, Progresso, Yoplait, Cheerios and numerous other cereal and consumer product brands. It provides products to the U.S. and international retail segments, as well as to foodservice providers and convenience stores. Currently, General Mill's products are available in over 100 countries, with offices and manufacturing facilities in more than 30 of them.
This company has been paying dividends uninterrupted and without reduction since 1898, resulting in an absolutely incredible 115 consecutive years of payments. It has raised its dividend for 10 straight years, including a 15.15% increase earlier this year from $0.33 to $0.38, giving it a yield of about 3.18%. General Mills has also been repurchasing its shares, resulting in over $1.9 billion in cash being returned to shareholders via dividends and buybacks in 2013.
General Mills has a 5-year annual dividend growth rate of 11.10% and generates ample free cash flow to continue a rate above 10% for the next several years. Its track record is proven and is home to arguably the safest dividend in the market today. Shares have fallen nearly 10% below its 52-week high, so there is plenty of upside from here. I believe General Mills will rally to fresh highs after the government shutdown issues are resolved.
Clorox (NYSE:CLX)Clorox is a worldwide leader in the manufacturing and marketing of consumer products. It is home to some of the most popular brands that many consumers use every single day, such as Clorox wipes, bleach, and disinfecting spray, Tilex, Kingsford, Pine-Sol, Liquid-Plumr, and Burt's Bees. Clorox reported fourth quarter earnings on August 1, showing increases on both the top and bottom lines, and a 36% increase in free cash flow year-over-year.
Management has been instrumental in using its free cash to initiate buybacks, as it repurchased 1.5 million shares in the fourth quarter, and to raise its dividend, as it has every year since 1977. The company currently pays out $2.84 annually, resulting in a yield of about 3.45%. Clorox is a best-in-class dividend stock.
According to YCharts, Clorox has a 5-year average yield of 3.24%, and I believe this average will easily be maintained. The stock currently trades over 8.5% below its 52-week high, so there is plenty of room for price appreciation as well as the income from dividend payments. I have been long this company for several weeks and will add to it on any further weakness.
Coca-Cola is the global nonalcoholic beverage leader with over 3,500 products offered in more than 200 countries. Its most popular products include Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Dasani, Powerade, Fuze, and VitaminWater. It has been the industry leader in many categories for decades and has rewarded its shareholders accordingly.
Coca-Cola is home to one of the best dividends in the investment world. It currently pays out $1.12 annually, resulting in a yield of roughly 2.96%. The most impressive thing about this dividend is that it has been raised for 51 consecutive years, including a 9.8% increase in 2013. The company has a 5-year average dividend yield of 2.89%, according to YCharts, and maintaining this range will be easy for the global powerhouse with sixteen $1 billion brands. With the company's consistent free cash flow generation, it is safe to assume the streak of consecutive raises is going to continue for decades to come.
The latest quarterly report was released on July 16 and it showed earnings per share rising 3.8% and revenue falling 2.7%; this is not a cause for major concern, but I would pay attention to its next report to make sure strength is regained. The stock is currently trading over 12.5% below its 52-week high and has become both a value and dividend play. I do not see much more downside in this one and it could be a top performer in 2014.
The Bottom Line
General MIlls, Clorox, and Coca Cola can provide safety in today's uncertain market. All three have high yields and are undervalued on a fundamental basis, allowing for plenty of upside appreciation along with returns from dividend payments. Take a look at your portfolio and see if you could make a diversified addition with one of these very strong companies.