With Greece and China bringing the latest round of market turmoil, and with the fed funds interest rate hike cycle still expected to start later in 2015, some investors are wondering where to keep their money safer than the broad stock market. Historically, that means defensive stocks with solid dividends.
24/7 Wall St. has always known that not all defensive stocks were created equal. We have tracked five solid defensive stocks that were down roughly 10% or more from their 52-week highs and that also were trading under their consensus analyst price targets on Wall Street. All but one have a dividend yield of 3% or better, and all are very well-known companies and brands.
Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) in tobacco and American Water Works Co. Inc. (NYSE: AWK) as the best water utility around made this list. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is now a solid view in telecom again, and its DirecTV buyout is believed to be days away from approval. Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) is not just a soda-pop and sugar water play anymore, and Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG) is making big organizational changes on its endless products in consumer products.
One caveat here is that investors cannot be complacent even in defensive dividend stocks. These did not get to be at a discount magically overnight. That being said, some of these companies have no exposure to Greece at all, and some have no direct exposure to the winds of change in China.
Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) manages to just keep chugging along. Despite lower case volumes and despite the trends against smoking, price hikes and cost containment are ruling the roost. Dividends keep growing year after year, and this company has virtually no currency headwinds after the split with Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM). Altria also keeps issuing guidance that would support higher payouts ahead.
The current trend of e-cigs is even counterintuitively keeping smokers still buying packs of real cigarettes occasionally, at least a lot more than if they were to just switch to nicotine gum — or just quit nicotine altogether.
Another unexpected boost may actually be the merger for the new Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE: RAI) after the Lorillard deal. Sure, it is more intense competition. The other side of the coin is that the merger takes Big Tobacco in the United States closer to a duopoly, outside of selective other niche brands and imports. That means one thing investors love — pricing power!
Altria closed Thursday relatively flat at $50.95, in a 52-week trading range of $40.26 to $56.70. The current price is 11% below the consensus analyst price target of $57.22 and 10.1% below the 52-week high. The company also has an annual dividend of $2.08, a yield of 4.2%.
American Water Works
American Water Works Co. Inc. (NYSE: AWK) is the one exception to the rule of the 3% dividend yield, but it has an unofficial pledge to keep raising dividends. It may seem unfavorable since it is a utility, but American Water Works is the biggest and best water utility in America — and you cannot bring in competition for water sources. This stock did not pull back by 10% for the longest time, but it finally did.