Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Key Ingredients for Successful Dividend Investing

There are four key attributes that need to be considered, in order to be successful at dividend investing. These ingredients include focusing on quality, earnings growth, entry price and sustainable distributions. In this article, I would focus in more detail behind each of these four items.

Quality

I believe in purchasing quality dividend paying companies. This means that I try to focus on companies with strong competitive advantages, strong brand names and/or wide moats. Companies like that offer a product or service which customers desire, and are willing to pay a price which would deliver a fair profit. In addition, companies which offer products which are perceived to have quality characteristics, which typically translates into repeated purchases of the goods or services. In addition, companies that offer a unique product or service are able to compete based upon the added value they bring to the marketplace, and avoid costly price wars with competitors. Furthermore, the company would be able to have pricing power and pass on costs to customers, which will be much less likely to switch to another product. I understand that quality lies in the eyes of the beholder, but through experience, dividend investors should be able to uncover quality dividend paying gems.

Earnings growth

My strategy focuses on purchasing shares in companies which will grow dividends over time. In order to achieve that however in a sustainable manner, companies need to be able to grow earnings. Businesses that manage to grow earnings also tend to become more valuable over time. I also prefer to focus on earnings per share rather than total net income. Companies can grow earnings either by expanding in new markets, introducing new products, marketing existing products to new customers, acquiring competitors, cutting costs or raising prices. I like to read about companies which have specific earnings growth targets. Coca-Cola (KO) is anexample that immediately come to mind when I think about specific growth plans, as I outlined in an earlier article. I also like to see companies riding a long-term economic trend. Many of the companies I own in my portfolio for example will benefit from the increase in number of middle class customers in emerging markets such as China and India. Others like Eaton Vance (EV) or Ameriprise Financial (AMP) will benefit from the increased need for financial products that generate income in retirement by the millions of baby boomers that are expected to retire over the next two decades.

Entry price

The price at which shares are acquired matters a great deal to investors. Even if an investor has identified the best dividend growth stock in the world, with the widest moat, and excellent prospects for earnings and dividend growth, they could still end up losing money for extended periods of time. The reason is that even the best dividend stocks are not worth owning at any price. If you overpay for your stocks, you might end up with losses or not gains to show for your efforts for extended periods of time, even if the underlying fundamentals improve according to your initial plan. In an earlier article I argued that this was one of the main reasons behind the so called “lost decade for stocks” in the US in the early 2000s. Companies such as Coca-Cola (KO) and Wal-Mart (WMT) were grossly overvalued in 2000, which is the primary reason why the stocks didn’t generate much in total returns over the next decade, despite the fact that earnings and dividend increased substantially during the period. I am not proposing that investors time the market and only invest when stocks are super cheap. Instead, I focus on screening the dividend growth lists for attractively valued companies on a regular basis, and then analyze in detail the companies that are spitted out by my screen before adding money to them.

Sustainable distributions

The next key ingredient for successful dividend investing involves the sustainability of distributions. Investors who purchase dividend stocks for income should check whether the company is able to adequately support distributions from current earnings or cash flows for certain entities such as Master Limited Partnerships or Real Estate Investment Trusts. For most corporations, a dividend payout ratio below 60% is generally preferred. A higher ratio could jeopardize the dividend payment even if earnings dip temporarily. That being said, even if a company has a sustainable payout at the time of purchase, over time it could become unsustainable if it grow distributions faster than earnings or earnings decrease due to tectonic shifts in the business model. The best situation I like to observe is when earnings and dividends grow at similar rates. For new dividend payers I typically observe situations where dividend growth is higher than earnings growth up to a certain payout ratio, after which it closely trails growth in profitability.

While investors could argue that one cannot put success in a pre-packaged recipe for achieving it, I have found the four ingredients above to be essential for my income investing strategy.

Full Disclosure: I have a position in all companies listed above

Relevant Articles:

Seven Sleep Well at Night Dividend Stocks
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Monday, October 27, 2014

Dividends Make Investing Easier During Market Declines

The past two weeks have been characterized by declines in stock prices. Many were speculating whether this decline is the beginning of a new bear market, or whether it was a sign that the US economy is heading into a recession. As I discussed in a previous article, I choose to ignore that noise, and stick to my simple long-term investing. It is during turbulent times, that I realize how much easier it is to keep a simple investment strategy that produces steady ( and growing) cash flow that goes directly to my bottom line.

For example, I used the cash produced by my income portfolio over the preceding few weeks to buy more shares. I also bought some shares in ConocoPhillips (COP) last week and just purchased some shares of IBM (IBM) as well. The fact is, I receive my dividend checks whether the stock market falls by 10% or rises by 10%. I will still receive them even if they closed the stock market for 10 years. Since I am in the accumulation phase, I reinvest all dividends into more dividend paying stocks each month. In addition, I am also able to save money from my day job, and use it to further build up my Dividend Growth Machine. As a passive investor with a long-term holding period, I have found that having a demanding career is helpful to keep me engaged. This helps because it prevents me from hearing noise about stocks, which would create an urge to do something. As we discussed last week, to be successful in investing, you have to have a set it and forget type of mentality where you let compounding to the heavy lifting for you. Worrying about ticks in unemployment, economy, Dow Jones Industrial s average is usually a recipe to do something stupid, such as panicking and selling when everyone else is selling. The other positive part of having a career is that I receive cash to deploy and invest.

Building wealth is really simple – get a job, save money, and then invest savings wisely. I invest my funds as if I would never ever be able to earn another penny, which is why I try to be a conservative income investor. This is a boring, slow and steady way, but if I methodically invest and compound my dividends, I know I will do reasonably well in 10, 20, 30 years.

The fact that I receive cash from the companies I own to deploy on a periodic basis is the fundamental strength of dividend investing. During a dip in stock prices, I can put that to work at more attractive valuations. If I needed retirement income which is predictable in amount and timing, my dividend checks satisfy both needs.

The things are getting better of course, when companies I own decide they have earned so much money, that they can now afford to not only pay me a dividend, but also to increase it for another consecutive year. I typically look for companies with long histories of consecutive dividend increases, because I have found that this is usually an indicator of a strong business with strong fundamentals. I do analyze companies in detail however before deciding if I want to buy their shares. In addition, I also try to follow a few basic valuation guidelines, in order to determine if share prices are attractive or not.

In the past week, several companies which I own, announced their intent to reward me with higher dividend payments.

Abbvie (ABBV) discovers, develops, manufactures, and sells pharmaceutical products worldwide. The company raised its quarterly dividend by 17% to 49 cents/share. In addition, the company approved $5 billion share buyback, after it scrapped its acquisition plan of Shire (SHPG). This was the second dividend increase for the company, since the split of Abbott Laboratories (ABT) into two companies. Given the fact that the company is expected to earn $4.06/share for the year ending December 2015, this puts the payout ratio at an adequate 48.30% and valuation of a forward 15 times earnings and an yield of 3.30%. Abbvie generates a large portion of sales from the drug Humira, which is scheduled to go off patent later in the decade. At this time I do not plan on adding to my position there, although I would keep holding, and allocating those dividends elsewhere.

Visa (V) operates as a retail electronic payments network worldwide. The company raised its quarterly dividends by 20% to 48 cents/share. This is the sixth consecutive dividend increase for the company which went public in 2008. The new dividend payment is 4.5 times larger than the initial payment of $0.105/share. The new yield is 0.90%, and the forward P/E ratio is 20.60 times FY 2015 earnings. The only reason to invest in Visa is if you believe that the company can maintain growing earnings per share by at least 15% for the next five years, and then by at least 10% for the subsequent 5- 10 years after that. This could translate into high dividend per share growth, and potential yields on cost that double every five years and come with massive capital gains in the process. Check my analysis of Visa on Seeking Alpha.

ONEOK Inc (OKE), which is the general partner of ONEOK Partners (OKS), raised its quarterly dividend to 59 cents/share. The forward yield on new shares is 3.90%. At the same time, ONEOK Partners (OKS) increased its quarterly distribution to 77.50 cents/unit, which is an increase of 6.90% over the same period in 2013. The forward yield is 5.80%. I sold most of my partnership units last week and purchased shares of the general partner with the proceeds. Based on my analysis of the situation, it almost always makes sense for a long-term investor to hold the general partnership shares, than the limited partnership units. ONEOK Inc is a dividend achiever, which has managed to boost distributions for 12 years in a row. It has a ten year dividend growth rate of 15.70%/year. ONEOK Partners on the other hand has increased distributions for 9 years in a row, and has a ten year dividend growth rate of only 6%/year.  I believe that yields on cost on an investment in ONEOK Inc (OKE) today could surpass the yield on cost in ONEOK Partners (OKS) in approximately five years. In addition, those shares could deliver higher total returns than the limited partnership units. That being said, I am keeping a minor position in ONEOK Partners in my retirement account, because the amount allocated to it is so small, the commissions to buy and sell are high at $7.95, which makes it not worth making a change at this time.

In addition, two other dividend champions continued their streak of regular dividend increases as well. Those included:

V.F. Corporation (VFC) designs, manufactures, or sources from independent contractors various apparel and footwear products primarily in the United States and Europe. This dividend champion raised its quarterly distributions by 21.90% to 32 cents/share. This marked the 42nd consecutive annual dividend increase for V.F. Corporation. The company has managed to increase annual dividends by 13.70%/year in the past decade. The stock sells for 21.50 times forward earnings and yields 1.90%

Parker-Hannifin Corporation (PH) manufactures and sells motion and control technologies and systems for various mobile, industrial, and aerospace markets worldwide. This dividend king raised its quarterly distributions by 31.25% to 63 cents/share. This marked the 59th consecutive annual dividend increase for Parker-Hannifin. The company has managed to increase annual dividends by 13.40%/year in the past decade. The stock sells for 15.20 times forward earnings and yields 2.20%.

Full Disclosure Long COP, IBM, OKE, OKS, ABBV, ABT

Relevant Articles:

- Dividend Champions - The Best List for Dividend Investors
The importance of yield on cost
Dividend Investors Will Make Money Even if the Stock Market Closed for Ten Years
Time in the market is more important than timing the market
Top Dividend Growth Stocks of the past decade

Friday, October 24, 2014

AT&T: A High Yield Telecom for Current Income

AT&T Inc. (T) provides telecommunications services to consumers and businesses in the United States and internationally. This dividend champion has paid dividends since 1984 and increased them for 30 years in a row. The most recent dividend increase was in December 2013, when the Board of Directors approved a 2.20% increase in the quarterly dividend to 46 cents/share.

The company’s competitors include Verizon (VZ), Sprint (S) and T-Mobile (TMUS).

Over the past decade this dividend growth stock has delivered an annualized total return of 9% to its shareholders. Future returns will be dependent on growth in earnings and dividend yields obtained by shareholders.

Read the rest of the article on Seeking Alpha

Full Disclosure: Long VZ

Relevant Articles:

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Time in the market is more important than timing the market

There is so much mental energy spent by investors, media and gurus spent on “guessing” the market top, market bottom, and whether we are in a bull or bear market, it is exhausting for me to watch. Frankly, in order to be successful in investing, one needs to keep it simple, and follow common sense principles. You do not need to successfully pick tops or bottoms in order to be successful, but have goals, and patiently hold quality companies for the long term that shower you with rising dividend income every year. If you have goals you want to achieve, you only need to develop a strategy to achieve it, and then stick to your plan through thick and thin.

Time in an investment is more important than perfect timing based on following fluctuations in the stock price. This is because if you hold a quality company purchased at a fair price, and then let the power of compounding do its magic over a long stretch of time, you will do really well. Those who are always looking to buy at the bottom or sell at the top end up missing out on the compounding of their income and capital. This is because noone can correctly buy at the top or sell at the bottom, except for a lucky accident once in their lifetime. At the end of the day, even a broken clock is right twice per day. Those who can tell you they can consistently do it, are either liars, are trying to get famous by being right once, or are trying to sell you an expensive investment service.

I did a quick experiment using Yahoo Finance historical data, where we have two investors buying shares of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) between 1/1/1980 and 12/31/1989. The first investor has $1,200 to put to work each year, and manages to buy Johnson & Johnson shares at the lowest monthly close for each year. They reinvest dividends into more Johnson & Johnson shares with each payment from the company. This investor manages to get this lucky for 10 years in a row. They then stop adding new money, reinvest their dividends automatically into Johnson & Johnson stock and hold on to the end of September 2014. The first investor thus ends up with a stake worth roughly $1,011,000 million, which generates approximately $26,600 in annual dividend income.

The second investor simply puts $100 per month, every month between 1/1/1980 and 12/31/1989. They also reinvest those dividends in more Johnson & Johnson stock in the accumulation phase. After that, no new money is added, although dividends keep getting reinvested automatically. By September 2014, the second investor has a portfolio worth roughly $875,000, which generates approximately $23,000 in annual dividend income. As you can see, while the second investor ends up with a little lower final portfolio values and annual dividend incomes, their returns are much more realistic and achievable by ordinary investors. Again, the goal is to try and keep a simple plan to stick to. It is highly UNLIKELY that someone will be able to allocate money at the lowest point in a company for 10 years in a row. Most keep trying, and as a result end up missing the big moves. The important thing in the case of Johnson & Johnson was to buy the shares, and then patiently reinvest dividends for decades, and let the power of compounding do the heavy lifting for you.

This example is where you have an edge in investing, that noone else on Wall Street has - you can hold patiently to your passive portfolio of quality dividend paying stocks, and collect those rising dividends through thick and thin. You do not care about high frequency traders, irrelevant relative performance bench-marking against some index over a meaningless time frame of a month or an year. If you have patience, you are very likely to successfully fund your long-term goals.

My goal is to reach a certain level in dividend income by 2018 – 2019. In order to reach this goal, I know that I need to save a certain portion of my paycheck, and then invest it every month in quality dividend paying stocks. As those dividend paying companies pay me more in dividend income, I then reinvest that income into more dividend paying companies. Life is much easier when you create a positive loop.

You can see that my strategy is only dependent on finding enough quality dividend paying companies to invest in each month. Therefore, it does not matter whether we are in a bull market, bear market or sideways market. As a dividend investor, I am a stock picker, not a market timer or prognosticator anyways. I focus on individual businesses available at attractive prices, which can earn more over time and thus afford to increase my dividends regularly. The only difference that a bear market makes to me is that there are more companies that are attractively prices. Since my timeframe for holding those companies and living off those dividends is approximately forever, my success is determined on letting those dividends compound over time into a meaningful stream of income to live off forever.

The toughest part of my plan is patience. As Munger Says, the most difficult thing a person can do is sit alone and do nothing. Given the fact that I am constantly bombarded by useless chatter from the media about the economy, shares, the FED, the world etc, I feel inclined to do something when in reality no action on my part is needed. I believe that investors should tune everything out, and just stick to their plan. At least that’s what I am doing. I know that the odds for success are very high for the investor who buys stakes in quality blue chip dividend payers every single month, reinvests dividends selectively, and then patiently sits on those companies for the next 20 – 30 years.

For example, did you know that if you started investing in in blue chip companies at the start of the great depression in 1929, and you reinvested dividends you broke even within 6 years. You did pretty well if you held on for 30 years. Even if you bought shares right at the top in 1972, and held on for 30 years, you made a lot money as well. The lesson is very clear – keep holding to quality dividend paying companies through thick and thin, keep adding money to dividend portfolios every single month and keep reinvesting those dividends. If you are unwilling to hold through a company through a 50% correction in the stock price, you should not be investing in stocks. 50% corrections would not bother me, as I see them as opportunities, since my dollars buy more shares when prices are lower. I also try to invest in companies, where I would not be afraid to hold, even if the stock market was closed for a decade.

The lesson to long-term investors is clear; it doesn't matter whether we are in a bull market or bear market. The goal is to dollar cost average each month in quality dividend growth stocks selling at attractive valuations, reinvest dividends, and hold patiently for the next 20 – 30 years. I cannot emphasize quality factor, since the quality companies are more likely to survive a deep recession unscatered, and continue paying and growing dividends, even during the hardest of times. If you are already retired, then you shouldn’t really care about stock prices anyways – just withdraw those growing dividends and enjoy life. Dividends are more stable than capital gains, they are always positive, which makes them an ideal way of living off a nest egg.

Full Disclosure: Long JNJ

Relevant Articles:

Dividend Investors Will Make Money Even if the Stock Market Closed for Ten Years
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Monday, October 20, 2014

United Technologies (UTX): A Diversified Dividend Powerhouse To Consider

United Technologies Corporation (UTX) provides technology products and services to the building systems and aerospace industries worldwide. This dividend achiever has paid a dividend since 1936 and increased it for 20 years in a row. Back in June 2013, when the Board of Directors approved a 10.30% increase in the quarterly dividend to 59 cents/share.

The company has managed to deliver a 10.20% average increase in annual EPS over the past decade. United Technologies is expected to earn $6.86 per share in 2014 and $7.52 per share in 2015. In comparison, the company earned $6.17/share in 2013.

United Technologies has consistent history of share repurchases. The company has been able to reduce the number of shares outstanding from 1.006 billion in 2004 to 916 million in 2014.

The annual dividend payment has increased by 14.40% per year over the past decade, which is higher than the growth in EPS. Future growth in dividends will likely match rate of increase in earnings per share, and be somewhere around 10%/year.

United Technologies has been able to generate a high return on equity, which has ranged between 19.70 in 2014 to 25.20% in 2008. I generally like seeing a high return on equity, which is also relatively stable over time.

Currently, United Technologies is attractively valued at 14.60 times forward earnings, and has a dividend yield of 2.40%. I recently added to my position in the stock, and plan on adding further this year, subject to availability of funds.


Full Disclosure: Long UTX and GE

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Two and a half purchases I made this week

This is going to be a short article. The purpose is to discuss how I was able to acquire shares in two companies this week. The third transaction is explained in more detail below.

The first company I purchased shares in included Eaton (ETN). Eaton Corporation plc operates as a power management company worldwide. The company has increased dividends for five years in a row. However, it has not cut dividends to shareholders but increased it every other year since 1983. The company has managed to deliver an 11.80% average increase in annual EPS over the past decade. Eaton is expected to earn $4.60 per share in 2014 and $5.34 per share in 2015. In comparison, the company earned $3.90/share in 2013. The annual dividend payment has increased by 13.80% per year over the past decade, which is higher than the growth in EPS. Currently, Eaton is attractively valued at 13 times forward earnings, and has a dividend yield of 3.30%. I initiated a position in the company in the past quarter, and have since added to it. I would be looking forward to adding to my position in the company in the coming years, subject to availability of funds, opportunity cost and valuation. Check my analysis of Eaton on Seeking Alpha.

The second company in which I purchased shares was Williams Companies (WMB). It owns the general partner interest in Williams Partners (WPZ) and Access Midstream Partners (ACMP) along with any limited partnership units in both MLPs. Those are pretty valuable, especially if the pipelines do manage to increase cashflows. Williams Companies is a dividend achiever, which has managed to raise dividends for 11 years in a row. The company has a pretty aggressive plan to increase dividends per share through 2017 and expects to pay $2.46 in 2015, $2.82 in 2016, and $3.25 in 2017. Given the current annual payment of $2.24/share, which translates to a roughly 4.70% current yield, I would be interested in the company even if growth slows down to 5% – 6%/year. But no, Williams Companies expects to grow dividends by 15%/year through 2017. Those projections are one of the reasons I initiated a position in the company a few months ago. Given that pipelines are under pressure in the past two weeks, I think prices are starting to get more attractive. I probably need to write a more detailed analysis of the company, so please stay tuned.

These purchases are relatively small, given that I didn’t expect to have enough funds till sometime in November. I might make another small purchase either next or the week after next week. The purchases I am trying to make are basically additions to shares of companies I own, in an effort to increase positions by taking advantage of decreasing prices.

The third transaction I did earlier did week involved some shares of Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI), which I sold in my taxable account and purchased Kinder Morgan Management LLC (KMR). Since I am replacing one security for another, I view this as a half “purchase”. Actually, since once the deal closes I will end up with KMI anyway, it shouldn’t even be considered a purchase. A few weeks ago, I discussed that there is an arbitrage opportunity, where by purchasing KMR shares, an investor who waits till the acquisition by Kinder Morgan Inc is complete, can end up with more KMI shares than purchasing them outright. This is because the price of KMR shares is lower than the conversion factor times the value of KMI shares. If that paragraph is making your head spin, read the whole article explaining the process.

On the plus side, Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI) announced it increased quarterly dividends to 44 cents/share, which is a 7.30% increase over the same rate paid in the same quarter last year. Unitholders of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP) will get a quarterly distribution of $1.40/unit, which is a 4% increase over the same distribution paid to unitholders in the same quarter last year. Given that Kinder Morgan Management LLC (KMR) is equivalent to KMP, minus the ominous tax structure of a partnership, and given its higher yield relative to Kinder Morgan Inc ( plus it is not taxable since I get shares "reinvested" without triggering any taxable liabilities to the IRS), I think that I made the right choice. Now if Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI) drops to $30 or below, I would replace my remaining position with Kinder Morgan Management LLC (KMR) shares.

The other half I transaction I did was the fact that I replaced most of my position (90% or so) in ONEOK Partners (OKS) in my taxable account with the general partner ONEOK Inc (OKE). There are multiple reasons for the switch. The first reason is that if you like an MLP, the best returns in terms of dividend growth and capital appreciation are always derived from investing in the general partner. Thus I believe that OKE will do better than OKS over the next decade. I also made a mistake by chasing yields in the first place in 2011, when I sold OKE to buy OKS. Chasing yield on my part is not the smartest thing to do. I discussed this mistake in a previous article I posted a few months earlier. I needed to fix the mistake, once I identified it. Another reason for the change is that I need to simplify my life, as I will no longer have to do K-1 forms. They are not that difficult for me to do, and ONEOK Partners (OKS) does a really good job in showing you what forms to file with the IRS. However, if I am no longer in charge of the DGI portfolio ( due to death, disability, insanity etc), I know that this would make it more difficult for whoever inherits the dough. Thus, I used the sell-off in the pipeline sector to get in on the general partner, which declined much faster and much more than the limited partner units. On the surface, it sounds crazy that I replaced a 5.80% current yield for a 4% current yield. The thing of course is that the second yield is expected to grow by 10%/year, while the first higher yield would grow much slower. Over time, investing in the general partner interest will likely achieve better yields on cost. For the time being, I am still going to keep the remaining ONEOK Partners (OKS) in my IRA however.

Full Disclosure: Long ETN, WMB, KMI, KMR, OKE, OKS

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Ten Dividend Seeds I Planted for Long Term Income
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How to buy Kinder Morgan at a discount
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Top Dividend Growth Stocks of the past decade

Dividend growth investing is sustainable when derived from consistent earnings growth. In its true form, successful dividend growth investing is characterized by instances where annual earnings and dividend growth are almost identical. In addition, companies that exhibit such traits tend to have their current yields being in the same range of 2% - 3% during prolonged periods of time. Ordinary yield chasing investors tend to ignore such companies, because they lack the patience or forward thinking to care for high future yields on cost or strong total returns. As a result, many of these companies offer low current yields, which tend to stay low for extended periods of time. The lucky investors who purchased such securities however are able to generate high yields on cost over time.

I selected the fifteen dividend champions which have achieved the highest ten year dividend growth rates:

Name
Ticker
Yrs Consecutive Div Increase
10 Year Annual Div Growth
P/E Ratio
Yield
Div Payout Ratio
Stock Analysis
AFLAC Inc.
AFL
31
16.8%
8.90
2.60%
23%
Becton Dickinson & Co.
BDX
42
17.6%
20.50
1.70%
35%
Computer Services Inc.
CSVI
43
17.0%
19.30
2.30%
44%

Donaldson Company
DCI
28
18.4%
21.70
1.70%
37%

Helmerich & Payne Inc.
HP
42
23.3%
13.10
3.10%
41%

Lowe's Companies
LOW
52
29.2%
22.40
1.70%
38%
McDonald's Corp.
MCD
39
22.8%
16.70
3.70%
62%
MSA Safety Inc.
MSA
43
16.5%
22
2.50%
55%

Nucor Corp.
NUE
41
22.1%
27.20
3.00%
82%

Raven Industries
RAVN
28
19.2%
21.10
2.20%
46%

T. Rowe Price Group
TROW
27
16.2%
17.40
2.30%
40%
Target Corp.
TGT
47
19.8%
19.00
3.30%
63%
W.W. Grainger Inc.
GWW
43
17.2%
21.60
1.70%
37%

Walgreen Company
WAG
39
22.0%
17.50
2.20%
39%
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
WMT
41
18.0%
16.10
2.50%
40%

High dividend growth does not make companies automatic buys. Investors need to evaluate each company in detail, and understand where future growth will come from. A solid plan with concrete deliverables communicated from the company is just one instance of something that could propel solid dividend growth going forward. Other variables that could translate into high earnings and dividend growth include taking advantage of favorable demographic trends in healthcare, baby boomers needs for retirement saving, and the rise of the emerging markets middle class.

Investors should also take with a red flag companies whose dividend growth has been slowing down considerably in the past five years or less. Nucor (NUE) rode the boom in steel prices in the first half of the decade, only to reach a plateau at the onset of the financial crisis of 2007 – 2009. The dividend growth has been miniscule for the past five years.

Investors should also look into the valuation of each company, prior to investing. Purchasing even the best company in the world that is guaranteed to boost earnings and dividends for the next 10 years could still lead to losses, if investment is made at very high valuations. Investors in Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) in 1999 and Coca-Cola (KO) in 1998 can certainly attest to this fact.

However, a booming business can be rewarding eventually even for the most unlucky investors, provided they are true long-term investors. Great businesses like Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola are attractively priced today, and have managed to record better sales, profits and dividends since hitting all-time-highs at the end of the last millennium. If they can continue pushing forward, their investors will eventually make good profits.

Full Disclosure: Long WMT, KO, NUE, LOW, AFL, BDX, MCD, TGT, WAG

Relevant Articles:

The Tradeoff between Dividend Yield and Dividend Growth
Why Dividend Growth Stocks Rock?
Four Characteristics of The Best Dividend Growth Stocks
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