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Ripe Dividend-Stock Picks: TIF, LVS, XEL, HNZ

Stocks in this article: XEL HNZ TIF LVS

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If you take a look, you will find lots of companies worth owning with quarterly dividends. As you know, dividends can be a wonderful source of investor revenue. With each dividend payment received, investors are able to lower their risk in an investment.

With my portfolio, although much of the gains will come from dividends, the option decay will provide a big part of my gains. Option decay, or Theta, is the loss in time premium between two dates. This is especially true in lower-yielding stocks, since higher-yield options have lower-time premiums, all else being equal.

If you understand what you just read, advance to the next paragraph. If not, read this: Let's say I write an option today to you for $1 with an expiration in two months. After one month, you would expect the value to drop in half (not actually, but you get the idea). If I write a covered with 30 cents in time premium and the option buyer exercises the option in front of the ex-dividend date, I get to keep the time premium paid (because the buyer is exercising). Also, the longer I maintain a covered-call position (like two weeks with a front month option, for example) the lower the time premium is worth (all else being equal).

Xcel Energy (XEL)
Xcel, through its subsidiaries, engages in the generation, purchase, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity in the United States. The company was founded in 1909 and is headquartered in Minneapolis, MN.
Yield: 3.88%
Dividend Amount: 27 cents
Ex-Dividend Date: June 19, 2012
Beta: 0.37

Strategy: Buy Xcel stock and offer to sell the June $25 strike or lower call for 30 cents over the intrinsic value.

The option may get exercised early for a gain. In almost all cases, I sell the call option first to ensure the stock option leg is complete. If not, after qualifying for the dividend, I will attempt to close out the trade with a gain of near 14 cents, plus dividend.

It is important to sell the call option hedge at or near the asking price for at least the minimum amount over intrinsic value. I don't want the option hedge unless the sale will provide at least the minimum 30 cents over intrinsic value.

My last step (completed before making a trade on the same day) is to check company announcements and news sources for possible price-moving events. This is especially critical during earnings season.

H.J. Heinz Company (HNZ)
Heinz manufactures and markets food products for consumers as well as food-service and institutional customers in North America, Europe, the Asia Pacific and other international markets. The company was founded in 1869 and is based in Pittsburgh, PA.
Yield: 3.85%
Dividend Amount: 52 cents
Ex-Dividend Date: June 20, 2012
Beta: 0.53

Strategy: Unlike the others, Heinz offers an even better strategy for trend followers than a dividend capture. The dividend influences the option price, allowing a low-risk method to catch the rising trend.

I like buying the June $50 strike call for 10-15 cents over the intrinsic value. With the June expiration date approaching, June will become the front month. Heinz has about three weeks to continue higher with a total time decay cost of about 10 cents before trading ex-dividend. If Heinz does fall or crash, the most at risk is about $3.60.

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