3 High-Yield Dividend Stocks to Buy in December

By Markets Fool.com

Not all high-yield dividend stocks are created equal, and while some make good investments, some should be avoided at all costs. For example, some are highly volatile, and others might not be able to sustain their high payouts. At the other end of the spectrum, the best high-yield dividend stocks can reward you generously without keeping you up at night.

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Here are three of our analysts' favorites that can produce excellent income while keeping your risk at a manageable level.

Matt Frankel
One of my favorite high-yield stocks is PennyMac Mortgage Investment Trust . Yes, it is a mortgage REIT, but it's not like the rest of the companies in its sector.

For starters, one of the riskiest things about other mortgage REITs, such as Annaly Capital Management and American Capital Agency , is the high amount of leverage they use, which can be upwards of 7-to-1 in many cases. This leaves the company especially vulnerable to rising interest rates. PennyMac doesn't have this issue, with a low 1.8-to-1 leverage ratio.

PennyMac can do this because it invests in distressed mortgages, which are relatively cheap and tend to pay much higher returns than agency (Fannie and Freddie) mortgages. The proof is in the performance: While most of the other mREITs were cutting their dividends left and right in 2013 and early 2014, PennyMac has actually increased its dividend by 11% since 2012. Plus, the company is earning more than enough money to cover its 11% dividend yield, and I would be surprised if we didn't see another increase in 2015.

However, keep in mind that if the housing industry runs into trouble again, then many of PennyMac's mortgages will default, which poses a serious risk. Nevertheless, PennyMac is a unique mortgage REIT, and in my opinion it's one of the best high-yielding stocks you can buy.

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Dan Dzombak
My favorite high-yield stock for December is Philip Morris , as it has an unbeatable business, a constantly growing dividend, and a dividend yield of 4.6%.

While many people are turned off by the thought of investing in a tobacco company, their reluctance is your opportunity. Philip Morris and other tobacco companies have generated market-beating returns for years in part because many investors shun the stock due to its controversial business.

Spun off from Altria in 2009, Philip Morris contains all of the international operations of its former parent. Phillip Morris owns many of the top cigarette brands in the world, giving it a market share of more than 40% in 46 countries and the top-selling brand in 59 countries.

While the company's growth has been slowed by growing taxes around the world, and earnings have been hurt by the strong U.S. dollar, the company's great brands give Philip Morris long-term pricing power, which will enable the company to continue doing well for decades to come. Pricing power means Philip Morris is able to raise its prices every year, which should protect the company's ability to pay a dividend.

Speaking of the dividend, Philip Morris has grown its dividend every year since becoming a public company. Over the past five years, Philip Morris' dividend has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 11% and now stands at $1 per quarter for a 4.6% yield. While the company's cash payout ratio is high at 70%, that is still manageable and lower than that of competitors' payout ratios, including Altria's 84%.

You won't find this strong of a business with such a high yield anywhere else.

Leo Sun
GlaxoSmithKline , which pays a forward annual dividend yield of 5.2%, is a top dividend stock to buy in December despite its ongoing troubles.

First, the bad news. GSK has fallen around 14% over the past six months due to a bribery probe in China and slumping revenue and profit. Last quarter, global sales fell 13% year over year as earnings per share plunged 59%. Sales of Advair, its top-selling respiratory drug for smoker's cough and asthma, fell 13% after pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts dropped the drug from its list of reimbursed medicines. This helped competing drugs like AstraZeneca's Symbicort and Merck's Dulera gain ground against Advair. Meanwhile, Breo and Anoro Ellipta, two new respiratory drugs expected to help offset Advair's decline, only posted combined sales of $55 million in the first nine months of 2014.

However, GSK will cut hundreds of jobs next year and restructure its operations to protect its bottom line, which could result in $1.6 billion in savings over the next three years. Income investors can also count on GSK to protect its dividend at all costs, as it has a history of boosting its trailing 12-month payout ratio (currently at 92%) to more than 100% to reward patient shareholders.

The article 3 High-Yield Dividend Stocks to Buy in December originally appeared on Fool.com.

The_Motley_Fool has no position in any stocks mentioned. Dan Dzombak owns shares of Altria Group, Annaly Capital Management, and Philip Morris International. Leo Sun owns shares of Altria Group, American Capital Agency, and GlaxoSmithKline. Matthew Frankel owns shares of PennyMac Mortgage Investment Trust. The Motley Fool recommends Express Scripts. The Motley Fool owns shares of Express Scripts. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.