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With volatility through the roof over the last few months, finding a good dividend stock isn't as easy as it once was. A number of stocks, especially in the consumer discretionary sector, have suspended share buybacks and dividend payouts, and more could join that list depending on how the crisis plays out.
However, during uncertain times, a reliable dividend becomes even more valuable. With that in mind, let's take a look at three dividend stocks that are selling for cheap today.
AT&T (NYSE:T) has lurched from one repositioning to the next over the last few years. Its 2015 acquisition of DirecTV is widely regarded as a flop, as AT&T bet on satellite TV when cord-cutting was picking up steam, and the verdict on its Time Warner acquisition is still out — but the coronavirus pandemic has not been kind to traditional cable networks like TNT, TBS, and CNN, which the company got in the deal, or the advertising business more generally.
That may explain why AT&T stock has underperformed the S&P 500 since the coronavirus sell-off started, falling 24% since February 21, compared to a 12% decline in the broad-market index — even though the company's core telecom business is recession-proof, essentially functioning as a utility. Its wireless business remained solid in the first quarter with 136,000 new postpaid customers, though challenges with the Time Warner business, including the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournament, led to overall revenue declining slightly.
Still, after the recent sell-off, AT&T offers a well-funded dividend yield of 7.4%, and has a payout ratio of just 58%, indicating plenty of room to raise its dividend. With HBO Max set to launch at the end of the month, the stock could see a boost if the new service is well-received. AT&T is also a Dividend Aristocrat, though its dividend hikes have slowed to just a penny per share in recent years.
Like AT&T, Altria (NYSE:MO) is a Dividend Aristocrat, meaning the company has hiked its quarterly payout ever year for 50 years. The stock has fallen recently over the deterioriation of its merger with Juul Labs and a temporary production shutdown at its primary manufacturing facility in Virginia, though that has since ended. As a tobacco company, it's well-protected from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as smokers will buy cigarettes regardless of the greater economic climate or any lifestyle changes caused by the virus.
Altria showed off strong growth in the first quarter. Cigarette shipment volumes jumped as customers stocked up and inventory was pulled forward as the pandemic hit. That, along with higher prices, drove revenue up 13% to $6.36 billion, while adjusted earnings per share jumped 18.5% to $1.09. Smoking rates actually tend to go up during recessions and other stressful situations like shelter-in-place orders, so Altria could continue to see sales volumes increase over the near term. That should provide a tailwind for one of the strongest dividend stocks out there, and encourage a generous dividend hike, as the company aims to pay out 80% of its profits as dividends. Altria currently offers a dividend yield of 9.3%, and investors could get a rewarding dividend hike later this year.
The apparel industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and most clothing chains have closed their stores during the lockdowns as they are considered non-essential. Hanesbrands (NYSE:HBI) also had to close its store, but its ownership of a wide range of brands selling basics like undergarments and exercise clothes — brands like Hanes, Champion, Playtex, and Wonderbra — gives it an advantage over more traditional clothing chains. Though the stock has fallen along with other apparel stocks during the crisis, Hanesbrands should bounce back as stores open and consumers get back to their normal lives. Its focus on basics also makes it more recession-resistant than most apparel stocks, and less sensitive to fashion trends.
First-quarter performance was impacted by COVID-19 as organic sales fell 11%, and second-quarter sales are expected to be down significantly. However, the company has taken steps to shore up its balance sheet and liquidity, and it ended 2020 with $1.1 billion in cash, with plans to add more.
Hanesbrands now offers a dividend yield of 7%, and as its stores reopen the stock should begin to recover. Compared to other stocks in the beaten-down apparel sector, Hanesbrands looks like a good choice for a dividend stock trading at a discount.
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