We contrarians don’t normally buy dividend stocks high. But when we do, we sell them higher.
These 25 dividend stocks we’re about to discuss are hitting new 52-week highs. This is notable because the market-at-large is falling apart. Which means they are on the “right side” of one or more current trends.
Considering the world is a much different place than it was just two months ago, this is notable. There has been a global trend change.
Our Federal Reserve is sopping up money instead of printing it. Sky-high inflation has backed the Federal Reserve into a corner, with no recourse but to start drastically raising rates and engaging other quantitative tightening measures. Higher interest rates in turn threaten to eat into the bottom lines of a Wall Street that has grown plump and complacent from years of lean borrowing rates.
Europe, meanwhile, is finally realizing it can’t buy gobs of gas to fund a war machine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made inflation worse. It has disrupted the supply of many key commodities and shelled an already-broken global supply chain.
Interestingly, we wouldn’t guess that 2022 was such a dumpster fire if we only looked at dividend-paying stocks. They have zagged while the broader market has sagged.
What’s fueling this surge among higher-income stocks?
- Safety sectors: Investors are finding safety in two of the market’s most yield-friendly sectors: utilities and consumer staples.
- Energy: “Crash ‘n Rally” dividend stocks—we told you so.
- Dividend safety overall: US Treasury bonds are getting trashed, which makes dividend stocks look safer by comparison.
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In fact, the latest rush to safety has driven dozens of dividend stocks to fresh 52-week highs of late, including 25 companies currently doling out between 3.0% and 12.3%!
That likely won’t be the peak, either, if current trends hold out. A few noteworthy stocks sticking out right now:
Altria (MO, 6.7% Yield): Tobacco companies are harder to kill than John McClane. No matter how bad the regulatory environment gets, Marlboro parent Altria (MO) and its ilk just keep on ticking. Indeed, Altria’s annual revenues have grown uninterrupted for a full decade. The company has tried to evolve by making big investments in vaping (Juul) and cannabis (Cronos Group). That’s not to say it has been completely successful—Altria had to write down its $12.8 billion Juul investment by $4.5 billion in 2019 amid government scrutiny. And while revenues have steadily grown, profits have been all over the map of late and are a fraction of their 2016 highs. But when investors find themselves in a foxhole, they find it hard to resist the “sticky” business and high yields of Big Tobacco.
OGE Energy (OGE, 4.0% Yield): Utilities have earned a bid of late, and that includes OGE—one of the sector’s best-looking names right now. Most readers probably don’t know OGE unless they live in Oklahoma or Arkansas, where OG&E (Oklahoma Gas & Electric) serves nearly 900,000 customers. But the company has gained nearly 30% over the past year, including a nearly 8% gain in 2022, thanks in part to stellar management. The company recently merged its midstream business with Energy Transfer LP (ET) as part of an effort to turn the company into a pure-play electric utility. The remaining business should benefit from strong cost controls. Growing dividends add to this utility name’s appeal.
Eagle Bulk Shipping (EGLE, 12.3% Yield): In general, shippers are benefiting from extravagant rates courtesy of gunked-up supply chains, but Eagle Bulk Shipping stands apart. This Ultramax/Supramax specialist actively trades its fleet to maximize whatever rate environment it operates in. The result is generous cash flow, which the company is happy to use to reward investors. In addition to a $50 million share buyback authorization, the company initiated a quarterly dividend in November 2021 that will equal at least 30% of net income and no less than 10 cents per share. The latest payout, delivered in late March 2022, was far more than that, at $2.05 per share—good for a 12%-plus yield!
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: Huge Dividends—Every Month—Forever.
Teacher, Police And Firefighter Pensions Are Being Secretly Looted By Wall Street
America’s severely underfunded public pensions are allocating ever-greater assets to the highest cost, highest risk, most secretive investments ever devised by Wall Street, such private equity, hedge funds, real estate, and commodities—all in a desperate search for higher net returns that, not surprisingly (given the outlandish fees and risks), fail to materialize. Transparency—public scrutiny and accountability—has been abandoned, as pensions agree to Wall Street secrecy schemes that eviscerate public records laws.
Our nation’s state and federal securities laws are premised upon full disclosure of all material risks and fees to investors: “Read the prospectus before you invest,” is the oft-cited warning by securities regulators. Nevertheless, teachers, police, firefighters and other government workers today are not allowed to see how their retirement savings are managed or, more likely, mismanaged by Wall Street.
For nearly a decade, the United States Securities and Exchange Commision has warned investors that malfeasance and bogus fees are commonplace in so-called “alternative” investments and, more recently, Chairman Gary Gensler has called for greater transparency to increase competition and lower fees.
Gensler has asked the agency’s staff to consider recommendations on ways to bring greater transparency to fee arrangements in private markets. “More competition and transparency could potentially bring greater efficiencies to this important part of the capital markets,” he said. “This could help lower the cost of capital for businesses raising money. This could raise the returns for the pensions and endowments behind the limited partner investors. This ultimately could help workers preparing for retirement and families paying for their college educations.”
Gensler has stated he would like to see a reduction in the fees these investments charge and has also commented on industry abuses such as ”side letters” which permit private funds to secretly give preferences to certain investors—preferences which harm public pensions.
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But that’s not good enough to protect public pension stakeholders.
No one—including the pensions themselves—seems to care that the government workers whose retirement security is at risk are being kept in the dark.
The SEC needs to do more—actually alert public pensioners as to those abuses the Commission knows full well are rampant, at a minumum. Advise them, Chairman Gensler, to demand to see and read prospectuses and other offering documents related to their hard-earned savings.
Does the SEC think it’s kosher for Wall Street to conspire with public pension officials to withhold this information from investors—any investors?
Since my 2013 forensic investigation of the Rhode Island state pension exposing gross mismanagement by then General Treasurer Gina Raimondo which I accurately predicted would cost workers dearly; my 2014 North Carolina state pension investigation exposing that $30 billion in assets had been moved into secretive, offshore accounts and, most recently, my investigation of the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, I have provided my expert findings to the SEC staff for their review. Each and every public pension forensic investigation I have undertaken has extensively discussed Wall Street secrecy schemes that enable looting. In my book, How To Steal A Lot Money—Legally, I quote disclosures from SEC filings that detail industry abuses.
Join me, Chairman Gensler, in giving government workers a clue, a glimpse, a peek, at the alternative investment abusive industry practices that are carefully guarded by Wall Street and being hidden from them.
Teachers, police and firefighters deserve a fighting chance to protect their retirement savings.
It Is Time To Buy Bonds
US 10-year note prices are likely to rise through August. The monthly histogram below shows that July and August have been the two strongest months for the note price.
Monthly Return- US 10-Year Notes
Blue: Average Percentage Change
Red: Probability of a rise on that day
Green: Expected Return (Product of the first 2)
These numbers are static in the sense that they change little over the years. This is only one cycle, the one-year cycle, whereas there are many cycles operative at any one time. In order to get a reading on such other rhythms, a scan is run to identify other profitable price cycles. The graph below reveals the most valuable cycles that are operative at any one time.
10-Year Note Monthly Cycle
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These cycles reinforce the seasonal tendency for notes to rise. Prices have risen in 60% to 65% of the time in these summer months. With the dynamic cycle also in ascent, the probabilities rise to about 65% to over 70%. There are similar and supportive developments in the Japanese and German fixed income markets.
The cycle projection must be confirmed by market activity. The daily graph reveals that price broke through a downtrend line.
10-Year Notes Broke Through Resistance
Here is a helpful sentiment indicator that supports the bullish view. The cover page of this week’s Barron’s points to much higher rates. Applying contrary opinion, this suggests lower rates and higher note and bond prices. The first objective is 123.0.
Will There Be War Over Taiwan – The Next Spy Thriller
I usually go through a rhythm of reading one or two serious books, followed by a few works of fiction and with summer on the way I wanted to highlight a few of both. In that regard I have just finished Laurence Durrell’s ‘White Eagles in Serbia’, an old-fashioned espionage thriller where the hero Colonel Methuen is dropped behind enemy lines in post war Serbia (he speaks excellent Serbo-Croat) and becomes embroiled in a violent plot to overthrow Tito.
The book is a warm-up to reading Durrell’s ‘The Alexandria Quartet’, a work that nearly won him the Nobel Prize. Durrell was part of an interesting Anglo-Irish family, who largely considered themselves Indian – his brother Gerald, the naturalist and writer, touches on this in ‘My Family and Other Animals’.
Though I am not an expert on these matters, I found ‘White Eagles’ a more realistic account of espionage than much of what we see in the media today (Mick Herron’s ‘Slow Horses’ is good), and overall it is a tale of derring-do that is more in keeping with the work of the founding fathers of the genre – Eric Ambler, John Buchan, Erskine Childers and Ted Allebury for example.
It also made opportune reading given what seems to be an epidemic of espionage – with reports of the Chinese hacking group APT40 using graduates to infiltrate Western corporates and notably the admission by the head of Switzerland’s intelligence that Russian espionage is rife in that country (notably in Geneva – for which readers should consult Somerset Maugham’s ‘Ashenden’ as background material).
These and other trends – such as the outbreak of a heavy cyber battle last week (against Lithuania and Norway for instance) and the increasingly public ‘clandestine’ war between Israel and Iran (they have just sacked their spy chief) point to a world that is ever more contested and complex.
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One of the new trends in the space is cyber espionage – both in the sense of stealing state and industrial/corporate secrets, influencing actors (such as the manipulation of the 2016 US Presidential election) and outright acts of hostility such as the hacking of public databases and utilities (i.e. healthcare systems). Here, if readers are looking for some serious literature I can recommend two excellent books – Nicole Perlroth’s ‘This is how they tell me the world ends’ and ‘Secret World’ by Christopher Andrew.
I am personally more intrigued by the difference between a spy and a strategist. A spy’s work could well be described as the pursuit of information about someone who is acting with a specific intent, as well as a sense of their reaction function. There are plenty of examples – from Christine Joncourt (‘La Putain de la Republique’) to Richard Sorge (see Owen Matthews’ ‘An Impeccable Spy’).
In contrast a strategist may try to plot trends and the opportunities, spillovers and damage they may cause. The US National Intelligence department is good in this regard, becoming the first major intelligence agency to publish detailed warnings on the side effects of climate damage.
Spies and strategists might work together, but history is full of examples (LC Moyzisch’s ‘Operation Cicero’) where intelligence fails to make it through the strategic process or is simply ignored for political reasons (might the early warnings on the invasion of Ukraine be an example).
In the spirit of the Durrells and Flemings of the world, what issues might be of interest in terms of digging into unknown knowns and unknown unknowns. Here are a few ideas, most of which are Asia focused (we might see an uptick in Asia focused thrillers).
On the diplomatic front, an interesting recent development was the visit of Indonesian president Joko Widodo to Ukraine, and then Moscow. It was a rare visit to Ukraine by an Asian leader and potentially marks the emergence or at least aspiration of Indonesia (population 273 million) as an emerging world diplomatic player. What has intrigued me so far is that there has been little coordination by the populous emerging (largely Muslim) nations (Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan) in the face of high energy and food prices, and that potentially Widodo could play a unifying role here.
Then, still in Asia, but on a more deadly footing, if the Western commentariat is to be believed, China is preparing an assault on Taiwan, and looking to learn from Russia’s military errors in this regard. Other countries are reacting, and I suspect that there will be much intrigue around Taiwan’s ability to acquire sufficiently powerful ballistic missiles that could strike the coastal cities of China, and relatedly how long might it take Japan to produce nuclear missiles (my sources say they could very ambitiously do it in five months!).
So, whilst the espionage literature of the 20th century has tended to be focused on Geneva, Berlin and London in the 21st century we may find ourselves reading about ‘behind the lines’ exploits in Jakarta and Tanegashima.
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