Fed Will Raise Rates This Week: 5 Top Dividend Total Return Stocks to Own

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Higher interest rates are generally bad for bondholders if they hold longer dated debt with lower coupons, and that has been the case for many as overall interest rates have been historically low for years. One area that income investors can look to is dividend-paying stocks, as they provide total return possibilities.

We like to remind our readers about the impact total return has on portfolios because it is one of the best ways to help improve the chances for overall investing success. Again, total return is the combined increase in a stock’s value plus dividends. For instance, if you buy a stock at $20 that pays a 3% dividend, and it goes up to $22 in a year, your total return is 13%: 10% for the increase in stock price and 3% for the dividends paid.

Income-minded investors with a higher risk tolerance for dividend-paying equities can still find solid value even in today’s pricey market. We screened the Merrill Lynch research database and found five companies are rated Buy, and pay outstanding regular and dependable dividends of at least 4%.

AT&T

This stock has been absolutely hammered and may be a great total return play. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is the world’s largest provider of pay TV, with TV customers in the United States and 11 Latin American countries. In the United States, the AT&T wireless network has the nation’s self-described strongest 4G LTE signal and most reliable 4G LTE.

The company also helps businesses worldwide serve their customers better with mobility and highly secure cloud solutions. Trading at a very cheap 8.9 times estimated 2019 earnings, the company continues to expand its user base, and strong product introductions from smartphone vendors have not only driven traffic but increased device financing plans.

The telecom giant reported mixed second-quarter results. However taking into account new assets from the Time Warner acquisition, AT&T raised its full-year earnings guidance to the high end of the $3.50 range, versus the $3.40 analysts had estimated.

AT&T shareholders are paid rich 5.9% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $37 price target from the shares, and the Wall Street consensus target is $35.91. The shares closed trading Monday at $33.91.

Altria

Shares of this maker of tobacco products and wine have been hit hard and offer value investors a great entry point. Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) is a top mega-cap consumer discretionary stock to buy, and the company’s Marlboro brand remains one of the most recognizable in the world. Many Wall Street analysts concede that the stock has solid downside support owing to the generous dividend yield, which remains at a huge premium in relation to the 10-year Treasury rate.

Cash flow generation and the return of cash to Altria shareholders remain key facets of the company’s total shareholder return plan. The analysts expect continued support of the strong dividend, in addition to continued share repurchase activity. The board also raised the dividend by 8.2% in 2017.

To diversify away from cigarettes and cigars, Altria has expanded its portfolio into new categories like wine and e-cigarettes, and the company also has a 9.6% stake in Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Altria investors receive a 5.24% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $70 price target, while the consensus estimate is $66.59 The stock closed trading on Monday at $61.06.