As the year comes to a close, the stock market is facing its steepest correction in a decade and was, at one point, staring down the worst December in 80 years. Although stock market corrections are pretty common, investors are nevertheless often surprised with the volatility and voracity of the downside moves that accompany them.
Heading into the new year, plenty of questions remain unanswered. Can the U.S. economy keep up its torrid GDP growth? Will the slump in oil prices cost the sector jobs? Can President Trump work with a divided Congress to effectively pass laws? Will the Fed continue its monetary tightening cycle? And can the U.S. and China avert an escalation of the trade war?
The smart way to combat stock market corrections
While we don't concretely know the answer to any of these questions, as investors, we can take steps to shore up our portfolios against possible downside and near-term volatility. The best way to do that is usually to seek out dividend-paying stocks.
Why dividend stocks? The simple answer is that dividend-paying stocks almost always have time-tested business models. In other words, management is unlikely to share a percentage of profits with investors if a company wasn't going to remain healthfully profitable in the future. That makes dividend stocks an excellent beacon for investors during turbulent times.
Dividend stocks can also help take the edge off of a correcting stock market. While a single-digit yield won't erase the fourth-quarter decline investors have endured, it certainly helps hedge against this downside.
And perhaps most important, dividends can be reinvested in more shares of dividend-paying stock to quickly compound your payouts and total wealth. This is a strategy commonly employed by the world's most successful money managers.
These high-yield dividends should be on your buy list
Of course, the catch with dividends is that investors want the highest yield possible with the least risk imaginable. Unfortunately, risk and yield typically rise and fall together. Since yield is a function of share price, a faltering business model with a plunging share price could give way to higher yields, falsely giving the impression of being an attractive income stock.
Then again, if you're willing to dig around, some amazing high-yield stocks (i.e., dividend stocks with a yield of at least 4%) can be unearthed at the moment. If you're looking for a solid income stream and reasonable value, here are some of the best high-yield stocks to consider buying in 2019.
AT&T: 7.3% dividend yield
Arguably my favorite high-yield stock and a company that was just recently added to my personal portfolio is telecom and content giant AT&T (NYSE: T).
To be clear, AT&T isn't flashy. It's not going to win anyone points for originality or grow at a double-digit annual rate. It's got a relatively boring business model, but that's what makes it so beautiful. Well, that and a number of recent corporate developments.
For starters, we're beginning to see AT&T and its major rivals roll out 5G networks in select cities. These next-generation networks are likely to have a similar effect to the 4G LTE rollout in 2010, whereby consumers push to upgrade their smartphone or tablet in order to download more data even more quickly than they already are. This leads to a tech-replacement cycle and a surge in high-margin data usage. The needle may not be moving much yet, but the company's growth rate is about to see a healthy pickup thanks to the coming 5G revolution.
Don't overlook the now-completed acquisition of Time Warner, either. Time Warner's prized networks (TNT, CNN, and TBS) are like dangling carrots that AT&T can use to attract video streaming subscribers from competitors as well as to command higher advertising rates.
At the moment, AT&T's 7.3% yield is very difficult to top, and it appears to be in no danger of going away. Tack on its lowest forward P/E in at least a decade, and you have one incredibly attractive yet stable high-yield stock.
Philip Morris International: 6.8% dividend yield
As long as you have no socially responsible investing qualms, I'd suggest also giving Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM) a serious look.
It's no secret that Philip Morris has a serious challenge on its hands. Cigarette shipping volumes in developed countries are mostly lower, as health concerns and tightening regulations work against the tobacco industry. But Philip Morris still has a number of factors working in its favor.
For one, nicotine is an addictive substance. Because smokers have historically had such a hard time quitting, Philip Morris has had little issue passing along higher prices for its products. Thus, even as the volume of cigarette shipments declines, it's had no trouble growing its sales and bottom line. And don't forget, this is a company that doesn't operate in the United States. Instead, it's counting on a burgeoning middle class in foreign markets to drive sales and hedge against volume weakness in developed countries.
Philip Morris has also been doing what it can to improve shareholder value. Although it hasn't repurchased any of its own stock in a few years, it has been regularly raising its dividend, which now stands at a delectable 6.8% yield. Worried this payout won't last? Don't be. This is a company that's averaged $8.6 billion in operating cash flow and $7.1 billion in net income over the past five years.
Looking ahead, Philip Morris' heated tobacco unit, IQOS, could be its next catalyst beyond just emerging-market tobacco product sales. The IQOS system was tested in Japan with modest success, but Philip Morris had difficulties penetrating the 45-year-old-and-up market. Some pundits wrote the alternative system off as a failure, but I see it more as a learning curve that needs some marketing adjustments. As IQOS is brought to new markets and the existing marketing campaign is tweaked, alternative products could become a greater percentage of Philip Morris' revenue.
At less than 13 times forward earnings, this, too, is about as cheap as it's been in at least a decade.
Cardinal Health: 4.3% dividend yield
Another top-notch high-yield stock to consider buying in 2019 is pharmaceutical and medical-device supply chain company Cardinal Health (NYSE: CAH), which, following its recent decline, has pushed its yield to more than 4%.
Cardinal Health's stock struggles can be tied to two problems: (1) weakness in generic-drug pricing, since it's a distributor of pharmaceuticals to hospitals, and (2) supply chain issues with Cordis, the medical-device subsidiary acquired from Johnson & Johnson in October 2015. Neither of these issues is much of a long-term concern.
Most generic drug developers have noted that generic pricing weakness has been ebbing and could dissipate completely in 2019. That should help improve the company's pharmaceutical supply chain margins, which is Cardinal Health's bread and butter.
Likewise, Cordis' supply chain issues are currently being worked on and shouldn't be a long-term problem. All the while, segment sales for Cordis have continued to rise. When these operating inefficiencies are resolved, it's not out of the question that Cardinal Health could begin growing its bottom line by around 10% per year.
Like Philip Morris, Cardinal Health is also looking out for shareholders where it can. A recently approved $1 billion share repurchase agreement now brings the company's buyback potential up to $1.3 billion. That's nearly 10% of the company's market cap. And as the number of outstanding shares is decreased, earnings per share has an opportunity to expand.
Sporting a forward P/E of a little more than 8, Cardinal Health, like the other high-yield stocks on this list, hasn't been this cheap in at least a decade.
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Sean Williams owns shares of AT&T. The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool is short shares of Johnson & Johnson and has the following options: short January 2019 $140 calls on Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.