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:

Yields Up To 9.9% That Rich Guys Don’t Want You To Know About

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Not yet as rich as you always wanted to be? Don’t worry, because today we’re going to dial you in for some “rich guy” dividend favorites that’ll pay you up to 9.9% every year.

Private equity is a lucrative and secretive world. It’s often limited to accredited investors, which means these funds require you to have $200,000 or more in annual income to qualify.

If you’re living on dividends alone, this might be challenging. Fortunately, there are some private equity plays that you can buy just like individual stocks. They trade for as cheap as $12 per share and they’ll pay you dividends from 8.8% to 9.9% along the way:

Contrarian Outlook

Contrarian Outlook

Private equity (PE)—funds that can invest in the equity and debt of privately held companies, which we typically can’t get our hands on—is generally touted as outperforming the stock market.

The American Investment Council, which advocates for private investment, points out that research from the 1990s and early 2000s showed that “private equity outperformed public markets by 3 to 4 percent each year,” and a 2019 paper investigating more recent “vintage years” finds that “that private equity continues to generate returns that are 2 to 3 percent above the returns of public markets.”

The downside? Privately held private equity firms aren’t exactly easy to tap, and you typically need to have seven digits to get in.

But here’s a back door that you and I can access. We can buy PE-esque investments just like regular stocks with a single-click! The trick is handful of little-known publicly traded companies called business development companies (BDCs).

Congress created BDCs in the 1980s to spur investment in America’s small and midsize businesses, the same way they created REITs in the ‘60s to help mom ‘n’ pop investors tap the real estate markets. And like REITs, BDCs get a generous tax break—if they dole out 90% or more of their profits as dividends to you and me.

Thus, business development companies not only let us access a big pool of investments you and I otherwise couldn’t otherwise dream of accessing, but also deliver sky-high yields that are among the highest you can find in the stock market. The caveat, of course, is that they do come with heightened risk, and not all BDCs are gems.

Today, I’ll show you three notable BDCs—yielding between 8.8% and 9.9%—that should be on your radar screen.

PennantPark Floating Rate Capital (PFLT)

Dividend Yield: 9.7%

Let’s start out with a yield juggernaut: PennantPark Floating Rate Capital (PFLT), which will get investors awfully close to a double-digit yield at current prices.

PennantPark provides access to middle market direct lending with, as the name implies, a heavy focus on floating-rate loans, though it’ll invest anywhere across the capital structure (senior secured debt, subordinated debt and others).

Its primary target is private equity sponsor-backed companies with $10 million to $50 million in EBITDA. It avoids capex-heavy businesses, as well as fickle industries such as fashion and restaurants, but it still has plenty of sectors to play with. Portfolio companies include the like of primary-clinic operator Cano Health, marketing services provider InfoGroup, and WalkerEdison, whose furniture can be found online via companies such as Amazon.com (AMZN), Target (TGT) and Home Depot (HD).

PennantPark typically leans toward the low-risk but low-reward end of the BDC spectrum, which historically has served it just fine. However, the BDC’s last earnings report raised some credit-quality concerns. The company reported that four of its portfolio companies were on “non-accrual,” which essentially happens when a payment is more than a month overdue, or there’s some other concern about a company’s ability to make a payment.

The BDC was subsequently nailed in May on the news. That has me wary. And the floating-rate nature of its loans, while attractive during periods of rising rates, isn’t a significant advantage right now.

New Mountain Finance

Dividend Yield: 9.9%

New Mountain Finance (NMFC) targets companies middle-market companies, too, investing between $10 million to $50 million across the debt spectrum in businesses that generate annual EBITDA between $10 million and $200 million.

NMFC likes to say that it invests in “defensive growth” industries. It’s a silly, contradictory term, sure. But the qualities it covets in its portfolio companies are, in fact, pretty attractive: high barriers to competitive entry, recurring revenue, strong free cash flow and niche market dominance.

To be fair, New Mountain, like PennantPark, is heavily weighted toward floating-rate loans, which make up 93% of the portfolio. But NMFC is a few steps in the right direction. Its credit quality is stellar – only eight portfolio companies have gone on non-accrual since inception in 2008, and there were no new non-accruals over this past quarter. Better still, the company is a bastion of consistency when it comes to covering its healthy dividend with net interest income (a core measure of profitability for BDCs).

New Mountain, which trades at only a sliver of a premium to its net asset value right now, still should be fine in the current environment. Keep this BDC in mind should the Fed’s hawks ever take over again.

Ares Capital (ARCC)

Dividend Yield: 8.8%

Ares Capital (ARCC) is a slightly more modest yielder compared to the previous two picks, and you likely won’t snag it for a significant discount. But that’s OK—ARCC is worth a small premium.

I’ve beat the drum on ARCC a few times, including in February 2019, but also going back more than two years, in January 2017. I said at the time that the company’s investment spread, as well as a $3.4 billion merger with American Capital, “should benefit ARCC in just about any market environment,” and that “in short, ARCC is going places.”

Ares Capital, Wall Street’s largest BDC, invests primarily in first and second lien loans and mezzanine debt of middle-market companies. A high priority is placed on “market-leading companies with identifiable growth prospects that can generate significant cash flow.” Its portfolio of roughly 345 companies touches numerous sectors, including business services, food and beverage, healthcare, IT and light manufacturing.

Ares’ core earnings and net realized gains have exceeded dividends every year since 2011, by increasingly wide margins. In fact, the company’s operational performance has been so robust that it has hiked its payout twice since this time last year.

Bottom line: ARCC is a standout in what typically is a difficult industry to invest in.

However, I’m not sure I’d commit capital to this stock right now. Given its recent run up, I’d like to see a pullback for a lower risk entry point.

Brett Owens is chief investment strategist for Contrarian Outlook. For more great income ideas, click here for his latest report How To Live Off $500,000 Forever: 9 Diversified Plays For 7%+ Income.

Disclosure: none

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.

Source: Yields Up To 9.9% That Rich Guys Don’t Want You To Know About

The Nightmarishly Complex Wheat Genome Finally Yields to Scientists – Diana Gitig

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Bread, like wine, is pivotal in Judeo-Christian rituals. Both products exemplify the use of human ingenuity to re-create what nature provides, and the fermentation they both require must have seemed nothing less than magical to ancient minds. When toasted, rubbed with garlic and tomato, doused with olive oil and sprinkled with salt like the Catalans do, there are few things more delicious than bread.

Wheat is the most widely cultivated crop on the planet, accounting for about a fifth of all calories consumed by humans and more protein than any other food source. Although we have relied on bread wheat so heavily and for so long (14,000 years-ish), an understanding of its genetics has been a challenge. Its genome has been hard to solve because it is ridiculously complex. The genome is huge, about five times larger than ours. It’s hexaploid, meaning it has six copies of each of its chromosomes. More than 85 percent of the genetic sequences among these three sets of chromosome pairs are repetitive DNA, and they are quite similar to each other, making it difficult to tease out which sequences reside where.

The genomes of rice and corn—two other staple grain crops—were solved in 2002 and 2009, respectively. In 2005, the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium determined to get a reference genome of the bread wheat cultivar Chinese Spring. Thirteen years later, the consortium has finally succeeded.

Hexawhat?

Humans are diploid. That means we have two copies (one pair) of each of our chromosomes (one from each parent). But bread wheat—Triticum aestivum L.—is a combination of three different grasses, each of which contributed both of its seven pairs of chromosomes. The first two grasses linked up about 500,000 years ago to make Triticum turgidum, an ancestor of durum wheat that has “only” four copies of each chromosome. Then, about 8,000 years ago, the third grass threw its chromosome pairs in to make the ancestor of our bread wheat.

The new reference genome published this week shows that most wheat genes are present in all three subgenomes, but some appear in only one or two out of three. One such gene, granule bound starch synthase (GBSS), “is a key determinant of udon noodle quality.”

Among the most valuable data from the study are the regulatory networks it revealed. With bread wheat, as in all organisms, where and when your genes are active can be as important as which genes you have. This analysis monitored which genes are active only in certain tissues, which are active only during certain times during development, and which are active when the wheat was exposed to different stressors.

There were 8,592 families of related genes that had additional members in the wheat genome compared to the nine other grass genomes examined. These genes were associated with fertility, tolerance to cold and salt, and processes important for grain yield and quality, like seed maturation and germination. Many gene families that are relevant for breeding—i.e., targets for future tinkering—were expanded, including one for disease resistance, one for drought tolerance, and one for winter survival. The expansion of these genes in the wheat genome is thought to have enabled the crop to produce high-quality grain across different climates and environments.

Solid

Breeding for important agricultural traits can be difficult if those traits are controlled by multiple genes, and those genes are each affected by their environment. This reference genome has identified genetic markers, much like diagnostic markers, that can be linked to particular traits. For example, about 26 genes are differentially active in wheat varieties with solid stems and those with hollow stems; this analysis revealed one gene where the number of copies varies reliably with stem thickness. This gene can now be used to select strains with solid stems in future wheat breeding programs. (Stem solidity confers resistance to drought and insect damage.)

Despite what you may have heard, modern bread wheat is not higher in gluten content than earlier varieties. (This sequencing effort didn’t show that; this fact had been demonstrated already.) Neither is the wheat we eat genetically modified. But with this genome now solved, breeders may now find it easier to tell which genes are valuable in agronomic traits, allowing them to more precisely adapt the crop to our rapidly changing environment and maintain stable yields.

 

 

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