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Dow 55,000? It's Closer Than You Think

Stocks in this article: AAPLGRMN MA T SPY

1. Buy Fundamentally Strong Dividend Payers

Firms that generate high-quality earnings and throw off enough cash to return value to investors in the form of a dividend are a good option. Yes, they'll obviously benefit from a stock rally, but the dividends (particularly if reinvested) should help to offset the negative effects of inflation while you wait it out.

AT&T (T) is a good example of this sort of stock. The firm is a communications juggernaut that's effectively the biggest mobile phone carrier in the U.S. Even though Verizon's (VZ) network is a bit bigger, AT&T owns its network in toto. I like that. One result of that is huge cash generation. AT&T uses that cash to pay an enormous 5% dividend yield right now, and it also has been slowly paying down its debt load (telecom is a very capital intense industry, after all). The firm's landline business is underrated, but it generates a nice quiet cash flow as well that should help finance the crown jewel wireless business for free.

>>8 Stocks With Big Dividends, Steady Returns

While they may not fit that mold perfectly, Apple (AAPL) and MasterCard (MA) are two other names that are skewed towards smaller dividends. Look, I understand that Apple is scary at around $620. But I've talked at length about why this stock is in fact cheap right now in spite of that price tag. It's got mountains of cash (which offsets its valuation), high-quality earnings and enviable momentum. Few firms can offer that combination.

Payment network MasterCard is attractive for similar reasons. Again, we've got a firm with high-quality earnings and momentum, not to mention the huge tailwind in the world's transition from cash to electronic payments methods. While smaller than Visa (V), the stock is cheaper, and it's quietly grabbing a bigger chunk of the industry's revenues: The firm's market share increased by 10.9% in the last year.

2. The Names Everyone Else Hates

When all else fails, focus on the big names that everyone else hates -- the perennial short candidates. Heavily shorted stocks have the potential for a short squeeze as sentiment turns, and that's more than just an old wives' tale; my research shows that buying heavily shorted large and mid-cap stocks (the top two quartiles of all shortable stocks by market capitalization) and rebalancing monthly over the last decade would have beaten the S&P 500 by 9.28% each and every year. That's some material outperformance during a decade when decent returns were very hard to come by.

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