NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In the seven years since the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates virtually to zero, investors have struggled to find income amid a low-yield landscape.
That's why stocks with high dividend yields are particularly appealing right now to income investors and savers -- double-digit yields, even more so. Below are three double-digit payers that should withstand the market ups-and-downs that we're likely to experience in the coming months.
But here's the rub. It's one thing to find a double-digit yield; it's another to find one that's sustainable. These three double-digit payers not only throw off robust income, but they also boast rock-solid balance sheets that should sustain their yields over the long haul.
Low rates will probably remain the norm into 2016, as interest rate "doves" increasingly predominate. Case in point: In a speech at the National Association for Business Economics on October 13, Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard urged the central bank not to hike rates prematurely. Brainard asserted that the U.S. economy faced too many risks and it is crucial to "nurture" the recovery.
And just yesterday, another Fed governor, Daniel Tarullo, stated his opposition to raising rates this year.
But investors who obsess over the vagaries of Fed policy are missing the point. Regardless of the monetary and political climate, it always makes sense for income investors to seek companies with a history of paying and growing dividends.
Truly enticing is that breed of dividend-paying stock with yields in the double digits. Let's take a look at three top ones now.
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1. CVR Refining L.P. (CVRR)
Current dividend yield: 19.24%.
CVR is an independent petroleum refiner and marketer of transportation fuels in based in Sugar Land, Texas. It converts crude oil into gasoline, distillates, and other products at two refineries in Oklahoma.
To be sure, refining is a low-margin business, which begs the question: Why is CVR Refining attractive right now? The reason is that today's large production of high-quality oil in the U.S. Midwest creates a quality, low-cost (relative to Brent North Sea crude) product that CVR Refining can then sell at a high profit.
CVR Refining's advantageous location in the Midwest allows it to use about 80% West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil as feedstock. The company's crude feedstock derives from prolific U.S. shale deposits, notably the Permian Basin in West Texas. This gives the refiner a big price advantage over other refineries that are compelled to use higher priced Brent crude.
Another trump card for the company: its ownership of 350 miles of gathering pipelines and six million barrels of storage capacity at its refineries, helping it maintain low operating costs per barrel compared with industry peers.
Two Harbors Investment is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that invests in agency and non-agency residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) in the U.S.
The principle and interest payments of agency RMBS securities are guaranteed by government entities, chiefly the Federal National Mortgage Association, aka Freddie Mae (FNMA) , or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, aka Freddie Mac (FMCC) . Non-agency securities are set up by investment banks.
Long-favored by income investors, REITs are closed-end investment companies that own real estate such as buildings, land and real estate securities. REITs sell on the major stock market exchanges just like common stock and they're legally required to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to investors. Income is derived from the rent, managing fees and leasing of the properties.
Agency-backed securities provide more protection and hence lower interest yields and income, but that's offset by the higher yields and income of non-agency paper.
The classic assumption is that rising interest rates hurt REITs because it raises the cost of money for real estate investing, but history shows otherwise. REITs have historically performed well during interest rate hikes. Nine different times, between 1994 and 2013, interest rates jumped by more than 1%. And six of those times, REITs generated positive returns.
With a rate hike looming, mortgage REITs have taken a beating lately and are nearly 20% off their highs. Two Harbors is particularly cheap right now, trading at a trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio of 7 compared to 22 for the REIT sector as a whole. With a diversified portfolio of agency and non-agency securities, this well-balanced REIT should fare well in coming quarters and sustain its high yield.
Ares is a business development company (BDC), a type of publicly traded private equity firm that invests in fledgling, entrepreneurial companies that are either too small to initiate a bond issue or too large to get a loan from their local bank.
The "sweet spot" here for investors is that the SEC requires BDCs to pay out at least 90% of their income back to shareholders as dividends, which generates very large dividend yields.
One of Ares's successful tactics is to play wait-and-see. It sits back and allows other venture capital firms to commit the initial financing for promising start-ups. Ares then steps in later, as the small firm gets past its early growing pains, to provide a full package of financing options in return for an equity stake.
This business model creates current income from debt issued, combined with capital appreciation potential from "exit" events such as initial public offerings. Ares plows back to investors the steady stream of growing cash flows.
ARCC is one of the largest and best-managed BDCs available. It boasts an investment portfolio valued at $7.8 billion and is composed of nearly 200 companies in a wide range of fields, including financial services, energy, manufacturing, retailing, and chemicals.
Over the past six years, Ares has consistently boosted its payout. Moreover, it has often supplemented the payout with special dividends, which further deepen the income stream.
If you'd like to learn about a group of high-quality, high-yield income opportunities, check out this free presentation: 11% Yields and No Taxes. Inside, you'll learn about one of the greatest gifts to income investors in the last century, and how you can begin taking advantage of it today for your portfolio. Click here now.
John Persinos is an editor and investment analyst at Investing Daily. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.