The situation in Crimea is becoming increasingly unstable, and the stock market looks vulnerable to all kinds of risks after five years of one of the biggest bull runs in history. Nobody knows for certain how the markets may react in the short term, but dividend powerhouses such as Clorox (NYSE:CLX), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL), and Kimberly-Clark (NYSE:KMB) are strong enough to continue rewarding investors with growing capital distributions through good times and bad in the years ahead.
Clorox is traditionally known for its bleach business, but the company operates in more than 100 countries in diversified sectors such as home care, laundry, and water filtration. Management claims that 90% of the company's brands hold the first or second market position in their respective categories, and this competitive strength in stable and defensive businesses means recurrent cash flows for shareholders.
Clorox has increased its dividend each and every year since 1977, so the company has demonstrated its resiliency over time. After it boosted its payment by 11% in May 2013, the stock now yields 3.2% and the payout ratio is at a reasonable level, near 63% of earnings.
Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble owns a unique portfolio of brands in several household and personal care categories; this includes 25 brands that each generate more than $1 billion in global revenue per year. The company serves 4.8 billion customers in more than 180 countries, and this combination of brand strength, economies of scale, and wide global reach protects Procter & Gamble through the ups and downs of the business cycle.
Procter & Gamble's trajectory of dividend growth is nothing short of spectacular: The company has paid regular dividends since its incorporation in 1890, a whopping track record of 123 consecutive years of payments. In addition, Procter & Gamble has raised those distributions for the past 57 consecutive years, including a 7% increase announced in May of last year.
The payout ratio is near 57% of earnings estimates for the current year, while the dividend yield is about 3%.
Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson is an undisputed global leader in the health care industry, benefiting from a rock-solid competitive position in areas such as medical devices and several pharmaceutical markets. Growing health care demand due to an aging population, broadened health insurance coverage, and technological advancements in the industry bode well for Johnson & Johnson for years to come.
The company has increased its dividend for 51 years in a row, including an 8.2% increase announced in April 2013. Johnson & Johnson has a safe payout ratio near 54% and a dividend yield around 2.8%.
Colgate-Palmolive announced a 6% dividend increase last week, marking the 51st consecutive year of uninterrupted dividend growth for the world leader in oral care. The company pays a dividend yield of 2.3%, and the payout ratio is quite comfortable, in the neighborhood of 56% of earnings.
Management estimates that the company owns a global market share of 44.8% in toothpastes, 32.9% in manual toothbrushes, and 38.8% in mouthwashes. Unparalleled brand recognition and scale advantages have allowed Colgate-Palmolive to put a smile on shareholders' faces via growing capital distributions throughout the decades, and there is no reason to believe that's going to change anytime soon.
Kimberly-Clark is focused on everyday necessities such as diapers, tissues, feminine-care products, and toilet paper, among others. Nearly a quarter of the world's population in more than 175 countries uses its products on a daily basis, and the company owns five brands that each generate more than $1 billion in annual sales: Huggies, Kleenex, Kimberly-Clark, Scott, and Kotex.
Kimberly-Clark has raised its dividend over 42 consecutive years, including a modest increase of 3.7% announced last month. The dividend yield is 3% and the payout ratio is around 59% of earnings.
Foolish bottom line
The geopolitical crisis in Crimea could continue to worsen, the economy might enter another recession, or the stock market could simply pull back for no specific reason at all. Anything can happen in a global scenario, and there is no way to tell what the future will bring. There are even some rumors -- God forbid -- about a new Justin Bieber album coming out soon.
But that's no reason to panic. Investing in solid companies with healthy and sustainable track records of dividend growth is one of the best strategies for superior returns in the long term, and smart investors can even capitalize on the opportunity to buy high-quality stocks at convenient valuations when the markets retrace.