How To Squeeze Yields Up To 6.9% From Blue-Chip Stocks

Closeup of blue poker chip on red felt card table surface with spot light on chip

Preferred stocks are the little-known answer to the dividend question: How do I juice meaningful 5% to 6% yields from my favorite blue-chip stocks? “Common” blue chips stocks usually don’t pay 5% to 6%. Heck, the S&P 500’s current yield, at just 1.3%, is its lowest in decades.

But we can consider the exact same 505 companies in the popular index—names like JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Broadcom (AVGO) and NextEra Energy (NEE)—and find yields from 4.2% to 6.9%. If we’re talking about a million dollar retirement portfolio, this is the difference between $13,000 in annual dividend income and $42,000. Or, better yet, $69,000 per year with my top recommendation.

Most investors don’t know about this easy-to-find “dividend loophole” because most only buy “common” stock. Type AVGO into your brokerage account, and the quote that your machine spits back will be the common variety.

But many companies have another class of shares. This “preferred payout tier” delivers dividends that are far more generous.

Companies sometimes issue preferred stock rather than issuing bonds to raise cash. And these preferred dividends have a few benefits:

  • They receive priority over dividends paid on common shares.
  • Sometimes, preferred dividends are “cumulative”—if any dividends are missed, those dividends still have to be paid out before dividends can be paid to any other shareholders.
  • They’re typically far juicier than the modest dividends paid out on common stock. A company whose commons yield 1% or 2% might still distribute 5% to 7% to preferred shareholders.

But it’s not all gravy.

You’ll sometimes hear investors call preferreds “hybrid” securities. That’s because they act like a part-stock, part-bond holding. The way they resemble bonds is how they trade around a par value over time, so while preferreds can deliver price upside, they don’t tend to deliver much.

No, the point of preferreds is income and safety.

Now, we could go out and buy individual preferreds, but there’s precious little research out there allowing us to make a truly informed decision about any one company’s preferreds. Instead, we’re usually going to be better off buying preferred funds.

But which preferred funds make the cut? Let’s look at some of the most popular options, delivering anywhere between 4.2% to 6.9% at the moment.

Wall Street’s Two Largest Preferred ETFs

I want to start with the iShares Preferred and Income Securities (PFF, 4.2% yield) and Invesco Preferred ETF (PGX, 4.5%). These are the two largest preferred-stock ETFs on the market, collectively accounting for some $27 billion in funds under management.

On the surface, they’re pretty similar in nature. Both invest in a few hundred preferred stocks. Both have a majority of their holdings in the financial sector (PFF 60%, PGX 67%). Both offer affordable fees given their specialty (PFF 0.46%, PGX 0.52%).

There are a few notable differences, however. PGX has a better credit profile, with 54% of its preferreds in BBB-rated (investment-grade debt) and another 38% in BB, the highest level of “junk.” PFF has just 48% in BBB-graded preferreds and 22% in BBs; nearly a quarter of its portfolio isn’t rated.

Also, the Invesco fund spreads around its non-financial allocation to more sectors: utilities, real estate, communication services, consumer discretionary, energy, industrials and materials. Meanwhile, iShares’ PFF only boasts industrial and utility preferreds in addition to its massive financial-sector base.

PGX might have the edge on PFF, but both funds are limited by their plain-vanilla, indexed nature. That’s why, when it comes to preferreds, I typically look to closed-end funds.

Closed-End Preferred Funds

CEFs offer a few perks that allow us to make the most out of this asset class.

For one, most preferred ETFs are indexed, but all preferred CEFs are actively managed. That’s a big advantage in preferred stocks, where skilled pickers can take advantage of deep values and quick changes in the preferred markets, while index funds must simply wait until their next rebalancing to jump in.

Closed-end funds also allow for the use of debt to amplify their investments, both in yield and performance. Should the manager want, CEFs can also use options or other tools to further juice returns.

And they often pay out their fatter dividends every month!

Take John Hancock Preferred Income Fund II (HPF, 6.9% yield), for example. It’s a tighter portfolio than PFF or PGX, at just under 120 holdings from the likes of CenterPoint Energy (CNP), U.S. Cellular (USM) and Wells Fargo (WFC).

Manager discretion means a lot here. That is, HPF doesn’t just invest in preferreds, which are 70% of assets. It also has 22% invested in corporate bonds, another 4% or so in common stock, and trace holdings of foreign stock, U.S. government agency debt and cash. And it has a whopping 32% debt leverage ratio that really helps prop up the yield and provide better returns (though at the cost of a bumpier ride).

You have a similar situation with Flaherty & Crumrine Preferred and Income Securities Fund (FFC, 6.7%).

Here, you’re wading deep into the financial sector at nearly 80% exposure, with decent-sized holdings in utilities (7%) and energy (7%). Credit quality is roughly in between PFF and PGX, with 44% BBB, 37% BB and 19% unrated.

Nonetheless, smart management selection (and a healthy 31% in debt leverage) has led to far better, albeit noisier, returns than its indexed competitors. The Cohen & Steers Select Preferred and Income Fund (PSF, 6.0%) is about as pure a play as you could want in preferreds.

And it’s also a pure performer.

PSF is 100% invested in preferred stock (well, more like 128% if you count debt leverage), and actually breaks out its preferreds into institutionals that trade over-the-counter (83%), retail preferreds that trade on an exchange (16%) and floating-rate preferreds that trade OTC or on exchanges (1%).

Like any other preferred fund, you’re heavily invested in the financial sector at nearly 73%. But you do get geographic diversification, as only a little more than half of PSF’s assets are invested in the U.S. Other well-represented countries include the U.K. (13%), Canada (7%) and France (6%).

What’s not to love?

Brett Owens is chief investment strategist for Contrarian Outlook. For more great income ideas, get your free copy his latest special report: Your Early Retirement Portfolio: 7% Dividends Every Month Forever.

I graduated from Cornell University and soon thereafter left Corporate America permanently at age 26 to co-found two successful SaaS (Software as a Service) companies. Today they serve more than 26,000 business users combined. I took my software profits and started investing in dividend-paying stocks. Today, it’s almost impossible to find good stocks that pay a quality yield. So I employ a contrarian approach to locate high payouts that are available thanks to some sort of broader misjudgment. Renowned billionaire investor Howard Marks called this “second-level thinking.” It’s looking past the consensus belief about an investment to map out a range of probabilities to locate value. It is possible to find secure yields of 6% or more in today’s market – it just requires a second-level mindset.

Source: How To Squeeze Yields Up To 6.9% From Blue-Chip Stocks

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Critics:

A blue chip is stock in a stock corporation (contrasted with non-stock one) with a national reputation for quality, reliability, and the ability to operate profitably in good and bad times. As befits the sometimes high-risk nature of stock picking, the term “blue chip” derives from poker. The simplest sets of poker chips include white, red, and blue chips, with tradition dictating that the blues are highest in value. If a white chip is worth $1, a red is usually worth $5, and a blue $25.

In 19th-century United States, there was enough of a tradition of using blue chips for higher values that “blue chip” in noun and adjective senses signaling high-value chips and high-value property are attested since 1873 and 1894, respectively. This established connotation was first extended to the sense of a blue-chip stock in the 1920s. According to Dow Jones company folklore, this sense extension was coined by Oliver Gingold (an early employee of the company that would become Dow Jones) sometime in the 1920s, when Gingold was standing by the stock ticker at the brokerage firm that later became Merrill Lynch.

Noticing several trades at $200 or $250 a share or more, he said to Lucien Hooper of stock brokerage W.E. Hutton & Co. that he intended to return to the office to “write about these blue-chip stocks”. It has been in use ever since, originally in reference to high-priced stocks, more commonly used today to refer to high-quality stocks.

References:

Guide To Dividend Funds For Retirees: 36 Best Buys

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You could live off dividends. Although stocks on average yield only 1.7%, it is quite feasible to assemble a collection of blue chips that are paying out 3% of their purchase price. That means a $1 million pot could produce $2,500 of monthly income, with reasonable prospects for seeing that income keep up with inflation over the next several decades.

You could do this yourself, buying a lot of dividend-rich stocks on your own. Or you could have the work done for you by owning a fund. This guide will steer you to 36 excellent choices—8 open-end funds and 28 exchange-traded ones—that yield 3% or better.

These funds are cost-efficient. The open-end (that is, traditional mutual) funds on this list are no-loads running up expenses no higher than 0.25% of assets annually. The ETFs cost no more than 0.15% annually.

Example: the iShares Core High Dividend ETF, whose $5.6 billion is invested in AT&T T +0.9%, Exxon Mobil XOM -0.6% and 73 other stocks. Expenses are a very reasonable 0.08%, or $8 annually per $10,000 invested.

Pay attention to expense ratios. If you are not careful, you can send a lot of money down a drainhole. This principle will be illustrated below.

Here are the winning funds:

By historical standards, a 3% yield from stocks isn’t terrific; the average payout rate over the past century is considerably higher. But you take what you can get. For a retiree aiming to live off a portfolio without eating it away, blue chips are a lot more plausible than bonds these days. U.S. Treasuries due in 2040 yield only 1%, and they are guaranteed to fail at keeping up with the cost of living.

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Stocks, unlike those Treasuries, are risky. They periodically crash. You can perhaps withstand that uncertainty. You could put some of your money in low-yielding bonds and plan on selling bonds, not stocks, if and when you need extra spending money during a bear market.

There’s more to reflect on than the risk. Here are five other things to think about before making a big commitment to high-dividend stocks as a source of retirement income.

1. You’re making a trade-off. Growth and yield are two different ways to get a total return. More of one means less of the other.

You can choose the mix. Young savers might prefer growth, owning companies like Netflix NFLX 0.0% and Amazon AMZN -0.7%, which pay out nothing but are fast-growing. Retirees might prefer AT&T and Exxon, which pay rich dividends but are on a plateau.

The average stock falls between these extremes. The Vanguard Total Stock Market index fund yields 1.7% and owns companies that collectively grow at a moderate pace, faster than Exxon but slower than Amazon.

It is delusional to think that you can have high yields without sacrificing growth. If stocks yielding 3% had as much growth as the average stock, then their total return would be 1.3% higher than the total return on the market. And if that were true, we could all become arbitrage billionaires by owning the high yielders while shorting the market. This is not going to happen.

Accept the reality. To get a high yield, you have to give something up.

2. Dividends aren’t the only way to draw income. If you need to spend 3% of your portfolio every year, you are not compelled to buy stocks like AT&T. There’s a second method to obtaining cash. You could invest in stocks with lower dividends and sell some shares periodically.

You could, for example, buy that Vanguard fund covering the whole market (its ticker is VTI), pocket the 1.7% in dividends, and then supplement the income with the sale every year of 1.3% of your fund shares.

Go with the high-dividend funds if you prefer. There is something appealing in that arrangement to people who were trained by the grandparents to never “dip into capital.”

The truth, though, is that the sustainability of your capital is not determined by its current yield, or by the number of shares you sell off. It is instead determined by your total return. Don’t assume that your capital will last any longer with a high-dividend fund than it would with VTI.

3. You can wind up with a lopsided portfolio. Aim for the very highest yields and you’ll probably have an overdose of oil companies, real estate investment trusts and European stocks. These might do very well for the next decade, but they might do horribly. Pay attention to diversification. In selecting from the high-yield list, don’t overdo the sector and global funds.

4. There will be cuts. Derivatives speculators in Chicago are betting that the dividend on the S&P 500 index will fall from $58 in 2019 to $56 in 2020 and $51 in 2021 before beginning a slow recovery. Allow for this. The yields you see in the table sare for a trailing 12-month interval. They somewhat overstate what you’re likely to collect in the near future.

Cuts are especially likely among the energy funds with double-digit yields.

5. Costs matter. The funds on our Best Buy list are cost-efficient. A lot of what brokers sell is not.

Paying more costs than you have to can do serious damage. An incremental percentage point of cost compounds, over 30 years, to a 26% slice out of a static account (one without contributions or withdrawals).

Some investors are incapable of conceptualizing this. To illustrate, I will cite one curious fund that is much sought after by yield seekers: Gabelli Equity Trust.

This closed-end uses borrowed money to buy more stocks, which means that it should have outsized returns in bull markets and very bad results in bear markets. How has it done? Not well. Despite the leverage, it hasn’t kept up with the bull market over the past decade.

Given that disappointment and the fund’s savage 1.3% expense ratio, you’d expect that shares would trade at a hefty discount to the portfolio value. Instead, they trade at a 3% premium.

What is the appeal of this fund? It pays an enormous dividend, equal to 12.6% of the portfolio annually. Evidently the buyers haven’t been informed about the fund’s lagging total return. They are gullible enough to think that it’s easier to retire on a fund with a high payout.

It’s okay to seek dividends. It isn’t okay to be naive.

Follow me on Twitter.

I aim to help you save on taxes and money management costs. I graduated from Harvard in 1973, have been a journalist for 45 years, and was editor of Forbes magazine from 1999 to 2010. Tax law is a frequent subject in my articles. I have been an Enrolled Agent since 1979. Email me at williambaldwinfinance — at — gmail — dot — com.

Source: https://www.forbes.com

financecurrent

How Snapchat Became The Best-Performing Tech Stock In 2019

Topline: After its stock market debut two years ago floundered, Snapchat has made a strong comeback: Its shares have risen nearly 200% in 2019, outpacing the broader market and easily eclipsing the rest of its peers in the technology sector.

  • Now valued near $23.5 billion, Snapchat sits at $17 per share, up from a $7.2 billion valuation and an all-time low of $4.99 per share last December, according to Bloomberg data.
  • Snapchat’s stock has eclipsed its peers in the tech sector this year: It is far and away the best performer in the iShares U.S. Technology ETF. While rival companies like Facebook and Pinterest are up 40% and 23%, respectively, they can’t compare with the triple-digit growth in Snap’s share price.
  • Strong earnings in recent quarters (with fewer losses than Wall Street had expected), new revenue opportunities and improved profitability have all helped drive Snap shares higher this year.
  • After being written off two years ago, the social media company’s user base and engagement is finally growing again. When Snap had its IPO in March 2017, valued at $31 billion, it hoped to become the next Facebook. But the app never really caught on with the masses—instead, it appealed mostly to younger users, as many adults and advertisers found it difficult to use.
  • Over the last year and a half, the company has transitioned to focus on its younger users again, exploring new revenue opportunities like Snap Games, which was rolled out in the spring. Some Wall Street analysts already predict that the new gaming business could be a big growth driver for Snapchat going forward. Evercore ISI analyst Kevin Rippey, for instance, sees it bringing in as much as $350 million in revenue each year by 2022.
  • Snap has ten “buy” ratings, 25 “hold” ratings, and 4 “sell” ratings from Wall Street analysts, according to Bloomberg data.

What to watch for: Third-quarter earnings, due in November, will be an important indicator. The company’s second-quarter earnings, released in July, saw revenue increase 48% year-over-year to $388 million.

Today In: Money

Surprising fact: Despite growth prospects, it’s still important to remember that Snapchat is losing money: Free cash flow dropped by 32% between the first and second quarter, the first such decline in a year.

Tangent: Since Snapchat stock started its comeback, CEO Evan Spiegel’s net worth has grown from just over $1.4 billion to $3.7 billion.

Critic: While Susquehanna Financial Group’s Shyam Patil remains optimistic about the company’s continued momentum in the short term, Patil highlights that the stock’s “valuation remains elevated,” compared to peers like Facebook and Twitter, and points out competition with Instagram as another potential downside risk, writing that “SNAP must hold onto the key 18-34 demographic to attract advertisers.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I am a New York—based reporter for Forbes, covering breaking news—with a focus on financial topics. Previously, I’ve reported at Money Magazine, The Villager NYC, and The East Hampton Star. I graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2018, majoring in International Relations and Modern History. Follow me on Twitter @skleb1234 or email me at sklebnikov@forbes.com

Source: How Snapchat Became The Best-Performing Tech Stock In 2019

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