If you’re buying utility stocks for dividends, focus on the firms that are boosting their payouts the fastest. I’ll give you my top 5 in a minute. But first, let me explain why this strategy is a must for utility investors today.
The Utilities Select Sector Spider ETF (XLU) pays just 3.4% currently. This puts utility dividends near 7-year low.
The problem with buying utility stocks with low yields is that, in most cases, payout boosts aren’t going to provide much help. XLU has only raised its dividend by a total of 24% over the last 7 years. That’s less than 3.5% annually.
This means that anyone who buys XLU today will probably need to wait 12 years to see just a 5% yield on his or her initial investment.
Ironically, it’s the deregulated part of these businesses that are getting crushed. Power and natural gas prices are in the tank. Utilities without the protective shelter of government regulation are experiencing the worst of both business worlds.
Your grandpa had it right – invest in regulated utilities. We should do the same, and strive for 80% regulation or better.
Here are 5 utility stocks candidates that boast strong protected business, with above-average growth prospects, too.
5 Mostly-Regulated Utilities Ready to Grow Dividends
Southern Company (SO) supplies power to 4.4 million customers in four southeastern states. It’s been paying dividends every year since Harry Truman was in the White House (1948, to be exact). And in the last 36 years, it’s hiked its payout 180%, or about 5% annually, on average.
Today, the stock yields 4.5%. The company’s heavy reliance on coal has been a big knock on investing in it in recent years. But it’s remedying that by spending more on renewables. It’s also in the process of buying natural gas distributor AGL Resources Inc. (GAS), which will cut its reliance on electricity, double its customer base and support its shift to gas-fired generation.
Duke Energy (DUK) has paid a dividend for 89 straight years, and counting. From 2009 to 2014, the company had been growing payouts at a sleepy 2% clip. But last year, the company turned up the volume, doubling the raise to 4%.
It intends to keep payout increases moving in tandem with earnings-per-share (EPS) growth, which it’s projecting to be 4-6% for the long-term. This will be powered by $20 billion in investments Duke is making through 2019 towards new generation, infrastructure, and renewables. The stock yields 4.4% today.
Edison International (EIX) boasts expected rate base growth of 7-8%, which is well ahead of the national average of about 5%. Since 2005, Edison has doubled its dividend – with an increase of 35% in the last two years alone!
Its 39% payout ratio is still low for a utility. Edison is targeting a 45-55% payout ratio – which means its 3% yield has plenty of room to keep moving in the years ahead.
WEC Energy Corp (WEC) is now the leading electric and natural gas utility in the Midwest. The company has grown its dividend an amazing 330% over the last 10 years, and its total stock return hasn’t been far behind:
More than 99% of earnings come from regulated operations. These are expected to grow at 5-7% annually beyond 2016, thanks to multi-year infrastructure projects. Dividend raises should happen in parallel, which means the current 3.5% yield will double in the next decade or so.
NextEra Energy (NEE) is the largest developer of renewables in North America. Most of its customers are based in Florida and serviced by subsidiary Florida Power & Light Company. The company has negotiated non-compete deals with many municipalities. Thanks to these agreements, 80% of NextEra’s business is protected.
Business has been good for decades. The company has increased its dividend for 21 straight years. And those have been meaningful raises – it’s compounded its payout at 8% annually over the past decade to investors.
The next three years look good for NextEra too, with analysts projecting 6-8% EPS growth. The stock pays 3% today.
My Favorite Sector for High Growth Dividends Today
Die-hard utility investors know that they’re going to receive their dividends each quarter like clockwork. And they’ve got annual raises to look forward to. It’s a recipe for compounding wealth and collecting income.
I actually like one sector even better right now for income investing. My favorite firm, in fact, pays a gaudy 7.5% today. And it increases its payout not just every year, but every single quarter:
You see, no matter what happens to the price of oil, the outcome of this year’s election, or even China or the Fed, there’s one sure economic bet in America: The country will be older in the future than it is now, and demand for healthcare services is set to skyrocket.
In fact, by 2024, national healthcare expenditures are expected to climb to $5.43 trillion, or about 20% of GDP.
This growth is fueled in large part by the Baby Boom generation. They make up 28% of the U.S. population and number 77 million strong. 10,000 of them turn 65 every single day and will continue to do so every day for the next 15 years.
I’ve uncovered three particularly solid healthcare plays – including the “every quarter” dividend grower – that are set to reap massive profits from this demographic shift.
They pay yields of 7.5%, 8.2%, and 8.9%, and all three are increasing earnings and their dividends annually. Click here for the names of all three and discover exactly how we’re playing the biggest demographic shift in U.S. history.
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