It's a pricey market. On average, stocks in the S&P 500 are trading at about 19 times earnings. Thanks to the market's 30% gain in 2013, that's a significant premium to earnings compared to last year's trailing-12-month P/E ratio of 16.8. If you're still looking for stocks for your watchlist, a handful of solid dividend stocks still offer value thanks to their promising income. Two, in particular, still look enticing: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Oaktree Capital Management (NYSE:OAK).
Tech's cash cow
It's no secret that Apple has loads of cash on its balance sheet -- $148.6 billion in Apple's fourth quarter, in fact. But it takes more than cash on a balance sheet for a company's dividend to be considered enduring and reliable. Particularly, Apple also needs generous dividend policies and a durable stream of hefty cash flow. Apple has both of these.
The company's management looks poised to continue to diligently return cash to shareholders for years. Though its dividend may be less than two years old, Apple didn't hesitate to boost the yield by 15% about a year after it was initiated. And speaking of a generous plan to return cash to shareholders, the company's share repurchase program is the largest in the history of the world.
What about durability? We've barely even scratched the surface of Apple's potential dividend payouts. In fiscal 2013, the company managed to turn about $0.22 of every dollar into free cash flow -- impressive indeed. Free cash flow, of course, is the good stuff. It's the cash that management gets to use to repurchase shares, pay out in dividends, or save for future strategic capital investments or acquisitions. It's the cash left over after all the company's expenses -- even its capital expenditures.
Just how much free cash flow, exactly, did Apple generate in 2013? A record $44.6 billion -- that's approximately 7.5% more than it generated in 2012.
Though Apple's dividend yield of just 2.2% may not be the largest, the company has the cash flow to continue increasing it by 15% annually for at least the next five years. For instance, consider that, despite its expanded $60 billion share repurchase program and its massive cash hoard, the company has only returned $43 billion to shareholders in the form of repurchases and dividends in the last six quarters (Apple initiated its program to return cash to shareholders six quarters ago). In other words, Apple is still generating more cash than it is paying out in expenses, dividends, or share repurchases.
Contrarianism at its best
Chairman of Oaktree Capital Management Howard Marks has made it clear through his widely read public memos to clients that managing risk is the No. 1 priority for his capital management and investment firm.
His emphasis on risk management is apparent in this quote from his book, The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor: "When you boil it all down, it's the investor's job to intelligently bear risk for profit. Doing it well is what separates the best from the rest."
His firm's approach to minimizing risk can be summed up simply: Look at what everyone else is ignoring and invest in the bargains everyone has missed (or doesn't have access to). As the world's largest alternative asset and distressed debt managers, Oaktree Capital has the clout to serve as a last-resort savior to large, distressed businesses -- opportunities not every investment firm is in a position to capitalize on. The firm's skill in consistently finding these cheap assets is evident in its solid cash generation.
Though the stock isn't necessarily a no-brainer bargain, its enduring characteristics and massive, 5% dividend yield make it worthy of its price, even after soaring 28% in the past 12 months. To put the icing on the cake, expert risk management sounds alluring with the market trading at such a meaningful premium.
Enduring cash cows
At the end of the day, durability is probably the most important factor investors should look for in any buy-and-hold investment -- income investment or not. Apple and Oaktree Capital are both leaders in their markets, generating solid cash flow from their loyal customers ("clients," in Oaktree Capital's case). They are prime examples of enduring businesses with promising streams of income from dividends.
In a pricey market, these stocks both likely offer solid value for long-term investors. While investors may have to wait for Apple's dividend to grow, its future growth potential looks promising. For Oaktree Capital, the hefty income stream is already here -- and it doesn't look like it's going anywhere.