The Top 5 US Dividend Stocks For 2012

By Robert Hauver

Which dividend paying stocks paid out the most cash in dividends in 2011? Did they raise their dividends enough to stay among the top US dividend stocks in 2012 for cash payouts? 2011’s winners were all Dow dividend stocks, all raised their dividends in 2011, and have the size and cash necessary to make this short list.

This group paid investors approx. $6 billion to $10 billion-plus in 2011, and appear likely to increase those amounts in 2012, given their historic and recent dividend growth rates. (Although though GE lowered its dividends in 2009, it started increasing them again in 2010, and continued to do so in 2011, with a huge 21% hike):

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Pending Quarterly Dividends: These stocks pay quarterly dividends, and three of them are listed in our High Dividend Stocks By Sectors Tables. The projected dividends listed in the following table are all based upon the most recent quarterly dividends paid:

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Other than GE, investors rewarded these stocks for their dividend payouts in 2011- their share performance beat the S&P, which returned a big goose egg for 2011.  Chevron, Exxon, and J&J also beat the Dow’s 5.53% return in 2011.  So far in 2012, investors are favoring small caps, but that increased “risk on” approach will probably fade, in favor of large caps, when volatility returns to the market:

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Selling Covered Calls: Even though these stocks don’t have the high options yields that we often write about, you can still substantially increase your dividend yields, via selling covered call options. We’ve listed only options for T, XOM, and GE here, as JNJ and CVX currently have much lower options yields.

In the July 2012 XOM covered call trade below, XOM’s call options sell for nearly 4 times the amount of its next 2 dividends.  The trade-off is that your shares will potentially be sold/assigned if they rise above the $87.50 July strike price for XOM. But you’d also receive a capital gain of $.73/share, the difference between the price/share of $86.77 and the $87.50 strike price, if the shares are sold/assigned.

The call options in the table below expire in Oct., July, and Sept. for T, XOM, and GE respectively.

(You can find more details for these and 30 other trades in our Covered Calls Table.)

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Selling Cash Secured Puts: As T, XOM, and GE are all relatively close to their 52-week highs, some investors may choose to sell cash secured puts below the current stock price, in order to achieve a lower break-even entry price.

Selling cash secured put options is an investing approach which pays you to wait: just like selling call options, you’ll get paid now for selling put options. But, if the stock goes below the put strike price at or near expiration, you’ll have it assigned/sold to you for a cost equal to the strike price.  However, your break-even will be lower than the strike price, due to the put premium you receive when you sell puts.

In general, most options aren’t exercised until sometime near or at their expiration date. As an option seller, this works in your favor, as the time value of the option that you’ve sold declines steadily.

The T Jan. 2013 $30.00 put strike price below pays you $3.25, making a break-even of $26.75, which is below T’s 52-week low.  (The puts in the table below expire in Jan. 2013, July 2012, and June 2012 for T, XOM, and GE respectively.)

(Note: You can see more info on these and over 30 other Cash Secured Puts trades in our Cash Secured Puts Table.)

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Valuations: Although these venerable large caps wouldn’t be considered growth stocks, GE’s PEG ratio is very near to the 1.00 undervalued threshold. XOM has a  negative PEG, due to analysts’ current negative growth forecasts for its next fiscal year. However, as we’ve seen before, oil could rise, or even spike much higher, in reaction to world events, particularly in the Middle East.  XOM has also turned in earnings surprises in 3 out of the last 4 quarters.

Ather issue for XOM is its increased exposure to natural gas via its 2010 purchase of natural gas giant XTO. With supplies coming on, natgas prices are forecasted to drop until US infrastructure can be built up enough to support increased demand.  However, with the current US administration just this week coming out with trucking tax incentives for natgas truck purchases, and other firms building a chain of US natgas fueling stations and liquid natural gas export treminals, demand for natgas may catch up with supply again sooner than later.

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Financials: GE’s debt/equity ratio is much higher than the rest of the group, but it does have an interest coverage of 2.3.  XOM and CVX have metrics that are mostly in line with their Oil Majors peers. JNJ’s numbers are superior to its peers, and, with the exception of a slightly lower ROA, T’s numbers outshine its peers.

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If you’re an income investor, this elite group holds some of the best stocks to buy in 2012 for dependable dividends.

Disclosure: Author is long GE, CVX, XOM, and T shares, and short GE call options.

Disclaimer: This article is written for informational purposes only and isn’t intended as investment advice.

Author: Robert Hauver © 2012 Demar Marketing All Rights Reserved