8 Stocks With Big Dividends, Steady Returns

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Individual investors are continuing to shun equities in favor of low-yielding government and corporate bonds, even as the Federal Reserve last week announced another round of bond buying and pledged to keep interest rates near zero until at least mid-2015.

Recent mutual fund flows highlight the ongoing trend. In the two weeks through Sept. 12, bond funds attracted $13.4 billion in new money while equity funds saw outflows of $6.4 billion, according to the Investment Company Institute.

But given the prospect of inflation ahead, a bonds-only strategy could be a bear trap for those on a fixed income, especially retirees.

So once again, it's worth noting that investors can get inflation protection by building an investment portfolio that includes investments by purchasing the shares of highly rated firms that offer yields much better than those of bonds with the upside potential that comes with the market.

With that in mind, I screened several financial databases for stocks that have a current dividend yield of at least 4%, or more than double that of 10-year Treasuries, and that combined with their share price appreciation, have total returns approximating the S&P 500's 18% gain this year.

And to stick with a conservative agenda, I focused on companies with a market value of at least $5 billion, decent ratings from analysts, and that have most of their revenue coming from the U.S., so as to avoid any potential surprises that may lie ahead from the ongoing European economic fiasco.

Here, then, are eight such stocks ranked in inverse order of their total returns this year:

8. Eli Lilly ( LLY)

Company profile: Eli Lilly, with a market value of $54 billion, is a leading maker of prescription drugs, including treatments for neurological disorders, diabetes, cancer and other conditions. It also has an animal-health-products unit. Foreign drug sales accounted for about 43% of total revenues in 2011. The company faces the challenge of a number of its patented drugs going to generic status over the next few years.

Dividend Yield: 4.2%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 16% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 17%. Analysts are all over the place on this one, giving its shares four "buy" ratings, one "buy hold," 11 "holds," two "weak holds," and three "sells," according to a survey of analysts by S&P. Analysts expect it will earn $3.38 per share this year, and grow by 9% next year to $3.69 per share.

7. Lockheed Martin ( LMT)

Company profile: Lockheed Martin, with a market value of $30 billion, is the largest defense contractor in the world and is the undisputed leader in next-generation fighter aircraft development.

Dividend Yield: 4.32%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 17% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 8%. Analysts give its shares three "buy" ratings, one "buy/hold," 18 "holds," one "weak hold," and two "sells," according to a survey of analysts by S&P. Analysts expect it will earn $8.11 per share this year and that that will grow by 3% to $8.37 per share next year. It has a forward P/E of 10, roughly in line with others in its industry.

Defense-industry stocks always face uncertainties in an election year, but given the political upheaval worldwide, this company is likely to continue to be a long-term winner of government contracts.

6. Altria Group ( MO)

Company profile: Altria, with a market value of $68 billion, is the largest U.S. cigarette maker. It spun off Kraft Foods in 2007 and its international cigarette operations in 2008.

Dividend Yield: 5.34%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 16.5% this year, and have a three-year, average annual return of 28% and a 10-year annualized return of 15%, which means returns are about as reliable as you can get. Analysts give its shares three "buy" ratings, four "buy/holds," nine "holds," and one "weak hold," according to a survey of analysts by S&P, which itself has it rated "buy." With a price-to-earnings ratio of 13.9, it still looks cheap.

5. CenturyLink ( CTL)

Company profile: CenturyLink, with a market value of $26 billion, is the third-largest phone company in the U.S., providing local phone service to 15 million lines and high-speed Internet to 5.5 million customers. The firm also owns a national fiber-optic network. It acquired larger telecom peer Qwest Communications last year.

Dividend Yield: 6.83%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 20% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 17%. Analysts give its shares 13 "buy" ratings, four "buy/holds," and eight "holds," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.

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