Christmas is less than three months away, and the surge in spending that always happens in America around the holidays can yield important clues about the future of the economy. Toy sales jumped by almost 7% during the 2015 Christmas season compared to 2014. After another year of economic growth, and with consumer confidence holding firm, many experts expect another substantial increase this year.
One of the biggest names in the toy business is Mattel(MAT) - Get Report . This California-based company owns the trademarks on some of the best-known toys ever: Hot Wheels cars, Barbie dolls, and Fisher-Price toys, to name just three.
When Mattel acquired Mega Brands two years ago, it added a lot of other well-known products to its line, including Power Rangers and SpongeBob SquarePants.
Mattel had a tough year in 2014, as it seemed to be falling behind its competitor Hasbro, which was able to take control of lucrative Walt Disney characters from Mattel, including the ones from the movie Frozen. The stock, which had traded as high as 47 in the early part of the year, plunged to around 23 a little over a year later.
But since then, the company has hired a new CEO, Chris Sinclair, and implemented a successful turnaround plan. The stock has rebounded by about 10% so far this year, but compared to where it was in 2014, it still has ground to recoup.
Mattel's performance in the second-quarter ending June 30 was strong, with Barbie sales up a remarkable 24% worldwide year-over-year, and Fisher-Price up a solid 6%. The company's line of American Girl dolls is also gaining popularity.
Another thing that makes the stock appealing is its high 4.9% dividend. Mattel doesn't have a long history of paying such high dividends, and this level of payout may not be sustainable over the long haul. Still, at a time when high-income investments are hard to find, Mattel's yield is almost double that of its rival Hasbro.
Mattel has also been expanding its operations in Latin America and Asia, where the lower median age and rapid economic growth add up to a big market for toys.
And Mattel recently got some revenge on Hasbro, when Comcast -- parent company of NBCUniversal - revealed that Mattel had acquired the license to produce toys based on the popular Jurassic Park franchise after Hasbro's rights expire in 2017. Jurassic World was the second-highest grossing movie of 2015, and a sequel is already in production.
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The author is an independent contributor who at the time of publication owned none of the stocks mentioned.