Last December we examined three dividend stocks that looked like they would do well in 2014: Apple (AAPL) , Microsoft (MSFT) and Tyson Foods (TSN) . The proof is in the pudding, so let's see how these three stocks have performed so far for the year (as of about noon EDT Tuesday).
Apple: up 36%.
Microsoft: up 23%.
Tyson Foods: up 22%.
After adjusting for dividends, the companies generated more than three times the return of the overall market, as measured by the S&P 500 ETF SPY (SPY) , which has gained about 9% so far this year. These results are even more impressive than the selections two years ago in Buy and Forget These Five Dividend Stocks in 2013.
After factoring in dividend payments, some of the stocks picks from December 2012 have almost doubled, and none has lost money.
The only certainty you should anticipate in 2015 is that the market will retain its inherent uncertainty.
Energy demonstrates how quickly the market can change. Two years ago, few believed the price of a barrel of oil could fall to $75, let alone to less than $60, where it is now trading. And now, there's a very real possibility that the price may breach $50 in coming months.
The direction and price of energy drives the market more than any other single factor. It's easy to understand this if one considers that the price of everything we buy is based on production and transportation costs from the producer to the consumer.
This is why lower energy prices are leaving consumers with more money at the end of the month than they expected. Consumers and the companies that serve them are positioned to profit if energy prices remain low.
Investors should expect energy prices to remain low when viewed over five years. A war or supply disruption can cause volatility, but new technology, namely fracking, has turned the peak oil theory on its head, at least from a "we've passed the peak" point of view.
We all understand what America's shale fracking has done to the world's energy markets, but did you know China's shale gas resources are larger? Similar to North Dakota's booming oil production, China's reserves are located far off the beaten path and will require better infrastructure to deliver the energy the country needs.
Although it's starting from a small base, China is expected to increase its number of producing wells by a factor of four in 2014, and increase that amount by another factor of four by 2020.
For the above reasons, Las Vegas Sands (LVS) and Wynn Resorts (WYNN) are the first picks. Additional unexpected discretionary spending in 2015 resulting from lower energy prices in general and lower pump prices in particular should bode well for casino stocks.
Shares of Las Vegas Sands and Wynn are significantly lower than their 52-week highs, largely because of economic softness in China, which may continue. In the U.S., however, one can expect consumers to take some of their extra cash and visit Las Vegas or Bethlehem, Pa., the two places where Las Vegas Sands operates casinos in the U.S.
The falling share prices have catapulted the dividend yield to more than 3.5% for Las Vegas Sands and to more than 4% for Wynn Resorts. For investors willing to buy and hold, collecting a dividend yield like that makes the wait for a rebound go by quickly.
If the cost of gasoline and oil in the U.S. continues to decline in 2015, the wait won't be long. Both casinos have their share prices discounted to less than 20 times what they're expected to earn per share in the next year. In other words, revenue and earnings growth isn't priced in, and if you're buying at this level, you're not paying a premium.
Seagate Technology (STX) is the third pick. Unlike Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts, Seagate is trading slightly lower than its 52-week high, and for good reason. Seagate is a leader in data storage and is benefiting from the growth of cloud computing.
Unlike many technology companies, Seagate has a board of directors that is particularly friendly to shareholders. The company pays a 3.3% dividend yield and continues to buy back shares, resulting in greater concentration for shareholders. For example, in 2010, Seagate had more than 500 million shares outstanding; today that number is less than 330 million.
Seagate markets both spinning platter-based memory storage and solid state drives. There are many predictions about when SSDs will push rotating-disk drives out of the market for good, but don't expect 2015 to be the year. Traditional storage cost is currently about four times greater using SSD on a per-unit-of-storage basis. However, the cost of storage in general continues to decline, and the rate of storage unit per dollar is climbing faster for SSDs than rotating disks.
That's good news for Seagate and shareholders because the company commands an almost 30% market share in SSD storage. Intel (INTC) , a stock selected at the end of 2012 to buy and forget, holds less than a 15% market share.