Some honeymoon! Stocks plummeted Wednesday, with the Dow posting its worst trading session of the year (off 313 points). When the market began to tank Wednesday morning, media reports tried to pin the blame on poor economic numbers out of Germany. As the slide deepened, though, the truth became obvious.
Investors are worried about the election results. The balance of power in Washington remains essentially unchanged from what it was two years ago. What’s more, the past two years haven’t exactly brought an abundance of sweet cooperation between the White House and Congress on the pressing fiscal issues of the day.
I had expected an outbreak of market angst like this, but not so soon. I still think it’s possible for our leaders to make a show of unity during the congressional lame-duck session, and avert the “fiscal cliff” looming at the end of 2012.
However, today’s trade reminds us that investor confidence at this point is quite fragile. The stock market’s technical weaknesses, which I’ve pointed out for months now, haven’t gone away. If anything, they’ve become even more glaring. (It’s now more than 18 months since the Value Line Composite Index, the best measure of how the “average” U.S. stock is performing, peaked!)
This is no time to throw caution to the winds. On the other hand, I do believe that the recent pullback has exposed some good values, particularly in the utility area—a favorite fishing hole for conservative investors.
Yesterday’s I added Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) to our Incredible Dividend Machine, and now I’m inserting another well-managed, financially robust utility into the Machine: Minnesota-based Allete (NYSE:ALE).
ALE generates and delivers power not only to its home state but to portions of neighboring Wisconsin and North Dakota as well. In addition, Allete subsidiaries mine coal, transmit electricity wholesale over high-voltage lines and operate wind farms to produce clean energy.
At the moment, ALE is in the midst of an ambitious five-year construction program that will expand the utility’s regulated rate base by 40% in 2016. Dividends over the same period should grow steadily at a pace equal to, or slightly above, the cost of living. Current yield: 4.6%.
The stock goes ex-dividend November 13, so if you want to capture the December 1 payout, you’ll need to get aboard before next Tuesday.
ALE will replace Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), a stock that has done reasonably well year to date (up 10.2%, including dividends) but now appears to have limited appreciation potential over the next 12 months. We’ll continue to track JNJ as a Standby holding. In other words, keep the stock, but don’t add to your stake unless you’re reinvesting dividends.