Using AT&T's new services on a tablet. Image source: AT&T
It's hard to find high yields in today's low-rate environment. But it's not impossible. In fact, here are three high-yield stocks that pay you each quarter through thick and thin. If you are in the market for dividends, you should take the time to look at AT&T (NYSE: T), Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED), and, for the more aggressive, Helmerich & Payne Inc. (NYSE: HP).
A changing giant
The AT&T of today isn't really the AT&T of old. There are many reasons for that, but one of the biggest is that it's shifted its focus from landlines to cellular telephone service. It's a move the company had to make to change with the times. For many years that meant robust growth on the cell side of the business, but not anymore. The U.S. cellular market is largely mature and it's now a heated battle for market share.
That said, AT&T has increased its dividend every year for 32 years running. Moreover, it yields nearly 4.5%, more than twice what the broader market is offering investors today. And, perhaps more important, the company isn't sitting still -- it's looking for growth in new areas.
For example, AT&T bought DIRECTV in mid-2015 for $48.5 billion. That makes AT&T one of the largest pay-television services in the country, with a footprint in a number of Latin American markets, too. The two areas dovetail with the company's purchases of two Mexican cellphone companies, in January and April 2015, for a combined cost of around $5 billion.
The takeaway here is that AT&T is looking to keep growing. But it's looking for that growth by expanding in businesses where it has a history of success. Clearly, you'll need to watch these initiatives to see how they pan out, but this strategy is very different from that of AT&T's main rival,Verizon (NYSE: VZ), which appears to be building a content and advertising business with its purchase of AOL and the pending acquisition of Yahoo! assets. That's not to suggest that Verizon will fail, only that AT&T seems to be sticking to its knitting a little more closely than Verizon, a fact that might make conservative investors sleep better at night while they collect AT&T's quarterly dividend payments every quarter.
The big city where Con Ed works. Image source: Consolidated Edison.
Wires and pipes
You probably know Consolidated Edison by its nickname, Con Ed. It provides electric services to roughly 3.3 million customers and gas services to 1.1 million across New York City and Westchester County, which is just north of the Big Apple. It also has operations in Orange and Rockland counties in New York state, with a small footprint in parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, too. In addition to all of that, Con Ed provides steam services within Manhattan.
The utility has increased its dividend each and every year for 42 years. The current yield is around 3.4%. That's not great based on the company's history, but it's still a lot better than the broader market. And with the long streak of annual dividend hikes, investors have clearly gotten their dividend checks each and every quarter for a long time running.
And there are a number of things to like about Con Ed. For starters, operating in and around New York City puts it in an affluent market that uses a lot of power and that has historically attracted a lot of people as both residents and visitors. Plus, perhaps more important, the company's focus is on distribution, not power generation. So it's shielded somewhat from electricity prices, which it basically passes through to customers. If you are looking for a decent yield and a history of regular dividend increases, Con Ed is one company you need to consider.
An oil rig that may or may not be in use. Image Source: Helmerich & Payne
A high-risk play
The last company to look at is Helmerich & Payne Inc. This isn't a good choice for investors with weak stomachs, because the company is in the oil and gas services business. Essentially, it builds and operates drilling rigs. When oil prices started to dive in mid 2014 the company's business took a big hit, and the pain isn't over yet.
For example, the company's rig utilization in the U.S. market, by far its largest business, was just 24% in the just-ended quarter. In other words, just a quarter of its domestic rigs are being used by customers right now. That's a slightly frightening number, and, as you might expect, earnings aren't exactly what they were during the oil market's heydays.
However, the company has increased its dividend every year for 44 years -- that includes the most recent hike announced in June. And the company has more cash on its balance sheet than long-term debt, so it's in pretty solid financial shape. If you are willing to take on a little risk, Helmerich & Payne's roughly 4.4% yield might be a good option for you.
Still some options for dividends
It's getting harder and harder to find solid dividend-paying companies offering a decent yield. AT&T, Con Ed, and Helmerich & Payne continue to pay investors every quarter and offer yields that are well above the broader market averages. Each has a very different profile, but if you are looking for dividend stocks today, you should take the time to carefully examine this trio. You might find that one, or more, would fit nicely in your portfolio.
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Reuben Brewer has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Verizon Communications. 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.