Investing

Inflation Turns Higher and a Huge Sell-Off May Be Coming: 7 Ultra-Safe Dividend Stocks to Buy Now

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The rally to start 2023 was a welcome relief for investors after a brutal 2022. While it was nice while it lasted, the incoming inflation data from January will not be a welcome guest. The headline number and the core, which subtracts the volatile food and energy component, were both higher on a year-over-year basis. The month-over-month numbers were reported in line, but the Federal Reserve will take note of the increase.
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Toss in the fact that forward earnings-per-share growth has turned negative, which has only happened four times in the past quarter century. However, each time it has, the stock market has taken a beating and equities have traded lower. So, what is the smart move for investors now? Seek some safe havens, as the coming months could be difficult.

We screened our 24/7 Wall St. equity research database looking for Buy-rated stocks that can withstand a brutal market sell-off and, importantly, come with big and reliable dividends. The following seven stocks fit the bill perfectly, but it is important to remember that no single analyst report should be used as a sole basis for any buying or selling decision.

Colgate-Palmolive

This top dividend payer is a very safe play for investors. Colgate-Palmolive Co. (NYSE: CL) manufactures and sells consumer products worldwide. The company operates through two segments.

The Oral, Personal and Home Care segment offers toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, bar and liquid hand soaps, shower gels, shampoos, conditioners, deodorants and antiperspirants, skin health products, dishwashing detergents, fabric conditioners, household cleaners and other related items. It markets and sells its products under various brands, including Colgate, Darlie, Sorriso, Tom’s of Maine, Irish Spring, Palmolive, Softsoap, Lady Speed Stick, Speed Stick, EltaMD, Filorga, Ajax, Axion, Fabuloso, Murphy, Suavitel, Soupline and Cuddly, to a range of traditional and e-commerce retailers, wholesalers and distributors. It also includes pharmaceutical products for dentists and other oral health professionals.


The Pet Nutrition segment offers pet nutrition products for everyday nutritional needs under the Hill’s Science Diet brand, as well as a range of therapeutic products to manage disease conditions in dogs and cats under the Hill’s Prescription Diet brand. This segment markets and sells its products through pet supply retailers, veterinarians and e-commerce retailers.

Investors receive a 2.32% dividend. J.P. Morgan’s $86 price target on Colgate-Palmolive stock compares with a consensus target of $79.73 and Tuesday’s close at $73.18 a share.

Dominion Energy

Many of the Wall Street firms that we cover are still very positive on utilities, and this company is highly rated. Dominion Energy Inc. (NYSE: D) is an American power and energy company that operates through the following four segments:
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  • The Dominion Energy Virginia segment generates, transmits and distributes regulated electricity to residential, commercial, industrial and governmental customers in Virginia and North Carolina.
  • The Gas Distribution segment engages in the regulated natural gas gathering, transportation, distribution and sales activities, as well as distributes nonregulated renewable natural gas. This segment serves residential, commercial and industrial customers.
  • The Dominion Energy South Carolina segment generates, transmits and distributes electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial and industrial customers in South Carolina.
  • And the Contracted Assets segment is involved in the energy marketing and price risk activities.

Dominion Energy’s portfolio of assets included approximately 30.2 gigawatts of electric generating capacity; 10,500 miles of electric transmission lines; 85,600 miles of electric distribution lines; and 94,200 miles of gas distribution lines. It serves approximately 7 million customers. The company sells electricity at wholesale prices to rural electric cooperatives and municipalities, as well as into wholesale electricity markets.

Shareholders receive a 4.48% dividend. The BMO Capital Markets target price is $66, and Dominion Energy stock has a $66.25 consensus target. Tuesday’s final trade was for $58.06 a share.

Essex Property Trust

This is an outstanding way for investors looking to add an inflation-busting real estate position to growth and income portfolios. Essex Property Trust Inc. (NYSE: ESS) is a fully integrated real estate investment trust that acquires, develops, redevelops and manages apartment communities in selected West Coast markets.

The company currently has ownership interests in 246 apartment communities, comprising approximately 60,000 apartment homes, with an additional six properties in various stages of active development.

Essex Property Trust stock comes with a 3.76% dividend. Truist Financial has a $250 price objective, while the consensus target is $240.65 and Tuesday’s closing share price was $238.83.

Merck

This remains a leading health care stock for conservative investors. Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) operates as a health care company worldwide. It operates through the following two segments.
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The Pharmaceutical segment offers human health pharmaceutical products in the areas of oncology, hospital acute care, immunology, neuroscience, virology, cardiovascular and diabetes, as well as vaccine products, such as preventive pediatric, adolescent and adult vaccines.

The Animal Health segment discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary pharmaceuticals, vaccines and health management solutions and services, as well as digitally connected identification, traceability and monitoring products.

Merck serves drug wholesalers and retailers, hospitals and government agencies; managed health care providers, such as health maintenance organizations, pharmacy benefit managers and other institutions; and physicians and physician distributors, veterinarians and animal producers. The company has collaborations with AstraZeneca, Bayer, Eisai, Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Gilead Sciences.

The dividend yield here is 2.70%. The $135 Cantor Fitzgerald target price is well above the $118.09 consensus target, and Merck stock closed on Tuesday at $108.74.

Mondelez

This consumer sector giant makes good sense for conservative investors. Mondelez International Inc. (NASDAQ: MDLZ) manufactures and markets snack food and beverage products worldwide. It offers biscuits, including cookies, crackers and salted snacks; chocolates, and gums and candies; powdered beverages and coffee; and cheese and other grocery products.

The primary Mondelez brand portfolio includes LU, Nabisco and Oreo biscuits; Cadbury, Cadbury Dairy Milk and Milka chocolates; Trident gum; Jacobs Kaffee; and Tang powdered beverages.

Mondelez sells its products to supermarket chains, wholesalers, supercenters, club stores, mass merchandisers, distributors, convenience stores, gasoline stations, drug stores, value stores and other retail food outlets through direct store delivery, company-owned and satellite warehouses, distribution centers and other facilities, as well as through independent sales offices and agents.

Mondelez stock investors receive a 2.35% dividend. Piper Sandler has set its price target at $80. The consensus target is $75.03, and shares closed at $65.66 on Tuesday.

PepsiCo

This top consumer staples company will be supplying the goods for football tailgates and parties. PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE: PEP) operates as a food and beverage company worldwide. Its Frito-Lay North America segment offers Lay’s and Ruffles potato chips; Doritos, Tostitos and Santitas tortilla chips; and Cheetos cheese-flavored snacks, branded dips and Fritos corn chips.
The Quaker Foods North America segment provides Quaker oatmeal, grits, rice cakes, natural granola and oat squares, as well as Pearl Milling mixes and syrups, Quaker Chewy granola bars, Cap’n Crunch cereal, Life cereal and Rice-A-Roni side dishes.
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Its North America Beverages segment offers beverage concentrates, fountain syrups and finished goods under the Pepsi, Gatorade, Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi, Aquafina, Tropicana Pure Premium, Sierra Mist and Mug brands, as well as ready-to-drink tea and coffee, and juices.

Shareholders receive a 2.66% dividend. PepsiCo stock has a $206 price target at Argus. The consensus target is $189.73, and the shares were last seen trading at $175.77 apiece.

Walgreens

This huge drugstore chain operator is a safe retail play for investors looking to add health care now, and it trades at a cheap 7.5 times 2023 earnings expectations. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (NASDAQ: WBA) operates as a pharmacy-led health and beauty retail company. It operates through three segments.

The Retail Pharmacy USA segment sells prescription drugs and an assortment of retail products, including health, wellness, beauty, personal care, consumable, and general merchandise products through its retail drugstores. It also provides specialty pharmacy services and mail services; this segment operates nearly 10,000 retail stores under the Walgreens and Duane Reade brands in the United States; and six specialty pharmacies.

The Retail Pharmacy International segment sells prescription drugs and health and wellness, beauty, personal care and other consumer products through its pharmacy-led health and beauty stores and optical practices, as well as online and an integrated mobile application. This segment operated 4,428 retail stores under the Boots, Benavides and Ahumada in the United Kingdom, Thailand, Norway, the Netherlands, Mexico and elsewhere, and 550 optical practices, including 165 on a franchise basis.

The Pharmaceutical Wholesale segment engages in the wholesale and distribution of specialty and generic pharmaceuticals, health and beauty products, and home health care supplies and equipment, as well as provides related services to pharmacies and other health care providers.

Investors receive a 4.75% dividend. Cowen’s target price is $54, and the consensus target is $41.32. Walgreens Boots Alliance stock ended Tuesday trading at $36.75.


These seven top stocks are trading at reasonable levels, pay solid dividends and, most of all, are solid and safe ideas in a market that looks poised to trade lower after a big run over the past six weeks. They not only will hold up if the selling does return but offer outstanding total return potential in 2023.

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