Editors' Pick: Originally published Feb. 23.
Editors' note: Since readers are so interested in quality dividend stock picks, we've done additional work digging into some of the stocks listed below, bringing in more analysis:
The information in the story below has not been updated to reflect current stock prices and dividend yields.
The S&P 500 is down about 10% from its 52-week high, and investors are growing more fearful by the day.
They are wondering if the next recession is right around the corner and whether they should sell some of their stocks now.
Trying to time the market is one of the surest ways to lose a lot of money and sleep. Instead of frantically trading in and out of stocks and worrying about their everyday price moves, investors should focus on companies that have ever-increasing dividend payments, regardless of what the broader stock market is doing.
These types of blue-chip dividend stocks share a handful of qualities. They generate consistent free cash flow, operate in slow-changing industries, maintain healthy balance sheets and have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to shareholders over the years.
Some of the high-yield dividend stocks below are even Dividend Aristocrats, companies in the S&P 500 that have increased their dividends for at least 25 consecutive years.
Although nothing in life is guaranteed aside from death and taxes, the seven high-yield stocks below have extremely safe dividend payments and recently increased their dividend payouts, a sign of financial strength and a welcome event for investors' wallets.
We even happen to own two of these high-quality dividend stocks in our Conservative Retirees Dividend Portfolio.
Let's take a closer look at these income machines that have recently rewarded shareholders with dividend increases.
1. Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)
Archer Daniels Midland is a key player in the agricultural market. It processes commodities such as corn, oil seeds and wheat into a variety of products for food, beverage, animal feed, chemical and energy uses.
Some of the company's products include vegetable oil, protein meal, corn sweeteners, flour, starch, ethanol and a number of other food ingredients.
Archer Daniels Midland has been in operation for more than 100 years, which is often a sign of a persisting competitive advantage. The company owns the largest grain terminal and shipping network in North America and has extremely capital intensive operations, which limits its competition.
With hundreds of plants and storage facilities strategically placed around the world and meaningful economies of scale, Archer Daniels Midland can be the cheapest and quickest provider of its products to most customers.
Despite its competitive advantages, the selling prices of most of Archer Daniels Midland's products are sensitive to commodity prices, which have hurt the business over the past year. The company's fourth-quarter earnings showed macro headwinds persisting as adjusted operating profit fell by 47% from a year earlier.
The company is working hard to take costs out of the business, but there is little else it can do until oil and crop prices rebound.
Archer Daniels Midland increased its dividend by 7% on Feb. 2 and has raised its dividend for more than 25 consecutive years. The company has plenty of room for future dividend growth as well because its earnings payout ratio is just 47% over the past 12 months.
Archer Daniels Midland has also increased its dividend at a 13% compound annual growth rate over the past 10 years, and we expect at least mid- to high-single digit annual dividend growth to continue.
The stock trades at 12.7 times forward earnings estimates and has a dividend yield of 3.6%, which is significantly higher than its five-year average dividend yield of 2.1%. The stock looks cheap relative to history and could see meaningful upside if macro factors start to go its way again.
CSCO data by YCharts
2. Cisco Systems (CSCO)
Cisco sells a wide variety of products and services that help develop, connect and manage communication networks around the world. Some of its products include routers, software and switching products.
The company's competitive advantages come from its size, diversified product portfolio and brand recognition. The company's breadth of products helps it build more integrated and efficient solutions for customers, and its size keeps its production costs competitive.
As more data are consumed around the world, demand for Cisco's products should grow.
Cisco boosted its dividend by a generous 24% on Feb. 10, continuing its streak of double-digit dividend growth. Cisco's payout ratio is also below 40% over the past 12 months, which indicates that strong dividend growth is likely to continue over the next few years.
The stock trades at 11.3 times forward earnings estimates and has a high dividend yield of 3.9%, which is meaningfully higher than its five-year average dividend yield of 2.1%. Considering the safety of the dividend, income investors should take a closer look at Cisco's stock.
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Thomson Reuters was created when Thomson acquired Reuters, a 160-year-old news and financial data service business, for about $17 billion in 2008. Today, Thomson Reuters sells a wide variety of content and services to professionals primarily in the financial, risk management and legal industries.
About 87% of the company's revenue is recurring in the form of electronic subscriptions to software, workflow tools, content and other solutions, and the business is global, with 40% of sales coming from outside the Americas.
The company's competitive advantages are derived from its long-standing relationships with customers and unique assortment of data. Professionals must have access to Thomson Reuters' data to do their jobs well, which has helped the company maintain No. 1 or No. 2 market share positions in each of its key businesses.
Competitors often lack the breadth of Thomson Reuters' solutions, which have been built organically and through hundreds of acquisitions over time. The company also maintains customer contracts, increasing switching costs.
Thomson Reuters lifted its dividend by 1% on Feb. 10. Although this increase was nothing to get overly excited about, it represented the company's 23rd consecutive dividend hike for shareholders.
Few companies have demonstrated such consistency, and we expect the business to continue rewarding its investors with dividend increases as a result of its predictable cash flows.
The stock trades at 17.2 times forward earnings estimates and has a high yield of 3.7%, which is slightly lower than its five-year average dividend yield of 3.9%. We view the stock as reasonably priced, given its high-quality level, modest growth prospects and reliable earnings profile.
4. Genuine Parts (GPC)
Genuine Parts is a distributor of automotive and industrial replacement parts, office products and electrical materials with roots dating back to 1928. The company sells its products and services through a network of about 2,600 locations primarily in North America.
It also owns about 1,100 NAPA Auto Parts stores, which sell automotive replacement parts.
Finding a business more consistent than Genuine Parts is hard to do. The company has increased its sales in 63 of the past 65 years and increased its profit in 50 of the past 54 years.
Genuine Parts' main competitive advantages are its breadth of products, brand recognition, strong distribution network and lengthy customer relationships. These factors have helped the company maintain No. 1 or No. 2 market share positions in each of its key markets.
Genuine Parts increased its dividend by 7% on Tuesday, marking its 60th consecutive year of dividend increases and placing it near the top of the list of dividend kings, which comprises companies with at least 50 consecutive years of dividend increases.
Genuine Parts has increased its dividend at a 7% compound annual growth rate over the past decade. We think that this growth will prove to be sustainable, thanks to the company's 50% earnings payout ratio and predictable earnings growth.
The stock trades at 18.5 times forward earnings estimates and has a dividend yield of 2.9%, which is somewhat higher than its five-year average dividend yield of 2.7%. The stock appears reasonably priced relative to its underlying growth prospects and the overall market.
5. Praxair (PX)
Praxair's business was founded in 1907 and has grown to become one of the biggest producers of industrial gases in the world. Industrial gases are used by customers in a wide variety of end markets to keep their operations and manufacturing processes running.
Praxair has a global reach with just 54% of its sales coming from North America.
The company's competitive advantages primarily come from the capital intensive nature of the industry, and Praxair's long-term contracts with customers. Gas is difficult and expensive to ship, which limits competition around Praxair's plants that have already established route density.
Additionally, Praxair's contracts with customers further lock out competition and have price escalators built in to protect the company's margins.
Praxair boosted its dividend by 5% during the first week of February and has increased its dividend for 23 consecutive years. Dividend growth has averaged about 10% per year over the past five years, and we expect mid- to upper-single digit dividend growth over the next few years as Praxair continues dealing with a sluggish macro environment.
However, Praxair's 53% earnings payout ratio provides it with plenty of dividend safety and room for expansion.
The stock trades at 18.7 times forward earnings estimates and has a dividend yield of 2.9%, which is meaningfully higher than its five-year average dividend yield of 2.1%. The stock appears relatively cheap compared to history.
6. Cincinnati Financial (CINF)
Cincinnati Financial has been in business for more than 65 years and is one of the largest property casualty insurers in the country. The company makes money by writing insurance premiums and investing the proceeds for income until the business needs to pay out claims.
Most of Cincinnati Financial's premiums are commercial policies (67% of sales in 2014), but personal policies represent a meaningful 25% of total sales as well. The majority of the company's business is conducted in the Midwest.
The company's skill in managing risk has been the key to its longevity. Cincinnati Financial has recorded favorable loss reserve developments for more than 25 years, which means that the company conservatively booked more losses than it actually realized in each of those years.
The size of the business also helps Cincinnati Financial diversify its risks and costs across a large number of policies to stay competitive, and it has developed an extremely large distribution network to sell its policies.
Cincinnati Financial raised its dividend by 4% in the beginning of February and is another dividend king with more than 50 consecutive dividend increases. The company has increased its dividend by 5% per year for each of the past few years, and we think that is a reasonable dividend growth rate to expect going forward, thanks to its 60% earnings payout ratio and mid-single-digit growth prospects.
The stock trades at 21.3 times forward earnings estimates and has a dividend yield of 3.1%, which is lower than its five-year average dividend yield of 3.8%. The stock looks a little pricey compared with the market and its historical multiples, but its dividend yield is very safe.
7. Kimberly-Clark (KMB)
Kimberly-Clark was founded in 1928 and is one of the biggest manufacturers of tissue and hygiene products such as diapers, baby wipes, paper towels and toilet paper. Some of its major brands include Cottonelle, Depend, Huggies, Kleenex, Kotex and Scott.
The company is also global, with more than half its revenue coming from outside North America.
Most of Kimberly-Clark's markets are characterized by a very slow pace of change, making them difficult to disrupt by new entrants, and the company's large size, powerful brands and financial strength help protect its market position. Its scale allows for cost-effective manufacturing, and its size allows it to spend more than $700 million in advertising costs to keep its brands in the front of consumers' minds.
Kimberly-Clark is a Dividend Aristocrat and most recently raised its dividend by 5% on Feb. 11. The company's dividend has compounded at a mid-single digit rate over the past five years, which we think is a reasonable growth rate to expect going forward.
Kimberly-Clark's payout ratio has averaged about 60% in recent years, which provides plenty of room for continued dividend growth despite sluggish revenue trends in the business.
The stock trades at 21.1 times forward earnings estimates and has a dividend yield of 2.8%, which is somewhat lower than its five-year average dividend yield of 3.2%. Although the company's growth prospects are low, its cash flow is extremely reliable and high-quality.
The business seems reasonably priced to somewhat expensive.