Investing in the stock market takes a lot of patience. Impatient investors often sell solid stocks during market downturns, then regret it a few months later when share prices bounce back to new highs.
If that sounds like you, consider buying dependable dividend stocks to ride out the near-term volatility. Not only will dividend payments encourage you to hold a stock for years instead of weeks, they can serve as passive income or boost your stake through dividend reinvestment plans.
Domestic tobacco companies might not seem like great investments due to declining smoking rates in America. Yet they still have tremendous pricing power, and remain shielded from overseas problems and a strong dollar. U.S. cigarette sales also tend to rise when the economy is strong, and gas prices are low.
Reynolds American is the second-largest domestic tobacco company after Altria (NYSE:MO). Reynolds sells Camel and Pall Mall cigarettes, Grizzly snuff, and Vuse e-cigarettes. It recently acquired Lorillard, the third-largest domestic tobacco company, giving it a combined market share of nearly 34%.
Reynolds has two advantages over Altria. First, it has a cheaper P/E of 15 compared to Altria's P/E of 20. Second, Vuse is the top e-cigarette brand in America, with a 34% share of the growing market. Reynolds stock has rallied more than 20% since the beginning of the year, easily outperforming the S&P 500's 9% decline.
Both Reynolds and Altria raise cigarette prices to offset weak shipment volumes. That might not seem like a sustainable long-term strategy, but cigarette prices in the U.S. are still about half of those in the U.K. and Australia, which both have comparable smoking rates.
However, shipment growth remained strong recently, thanks to low gas prices and a robust U.S. economy. Last quarter, Reynolds' core RJR Tobacco cigarette shipments improved 4.4% annually, thanks to the addition of Lorillard's Newport brand in mid-June. That growth boosted Reynolds' revenue by 11% annually, as GAAP net income surged 171%.
That strong bottom-line growth gives the company plenty of cash to pay dividends. Reynolds paid out 85% of its free cash flow as dividends during the past 12 months, and it currently has a forward annual yield of 3.4%. The company has raised its dividend for six consecutive years.
Verizon (NYSE:VZ), the largest wireless carrier in America, is another "all American" stock that's well protected from global turmoil, because it generates most of its revenue from the U.S. market. Last quarter, Verizon added 1.1 million net retail postpaid wireless customers compared to an addition of 565,000 customers in the previous quarter, and 1.4 million additions in the prior year quarter.
That generated a 5.3% annual increase in total wireless revenues, which accounted for 70% of its top line. Verizon's smaller wireline business reported 8.1% annual growth in FiOS Internet connections, and a 6.4% increase in FiOS video connections.
That increase in users boosted Verizon's operating revenues by 2.4% annually last quarter, but net income improved by less than 1% due to higher spending on wireless equipment. However, Verizon's sale of lower-margin wireline assets to Frontier (OTC:FTR), which is expected to close next year, should reduce long-term operating expenses.
Looking ahead, Verizon will integrate AOL, which it acquired for $4.4 billion earlier this year, to expand its digital advertising capabilities. It's also diversifying its revenue with its fledgling Internet of Things and telematics businesses, which have generated $320 million in revenues since the beginning of the year.
Verizon certainly isn't a high-growth business, but the company paid out more than 100% of its free cash flow, and 86% of its earnings, as dividends during the past 12 months, and it pays a forward annual yield of 4.8%. The company has hiked its dividend for eight straight years.
Do your due diligence
Be aware that not all high-yield stocks are great long-term investments. If dividend payments exceed free cash flow or earnings for too long, the payout could be reduced.
Other companies only have high yields due to huge declines in their stock prices, which could be caused by problems with their core businesses. But in my opinion, solid plays like Reynolds American and Verizon can help you ride out market turbulence, and refrain from prematurely selling your stocks.