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anchor your portfolio with dividend aristocrats amid market volatility 146


Anchor Your Portfolio with Dividend Aristocrats Amid Market Volatility


Lauren Miller

April 4, 2024 - 10:56 am


Navigating the Market Turbulence: A Closer Look at Dividend Aristocrats’ Resilience

As the stock market approaches a potentially volatile second quarter, investors are keeping a cautious eye on the shifting landscape. With heightened concerns over the imminent interest rate adjustments by the Federal Reserve, the beginning of the quarter has been anything but steady. In such unpredictable times, investors are increasingly considering the stability that steady dividend payers offer, aiming to not only weather the volatility but also to create a stream of income.

The Federal Reserve's Position on Interest Rates

The Federal Reserve remains at the forefront of investor attention, primarily for its interest rate policies which directly impact the stock market. The Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, emphasized on Wednesday the necessity for additional evidence pointing to inflation moving towards the central bank's target rate of 2% before there can be any consideration of a decrease in interest rates. This announcement aligns with the cautious stance the Federal Reserve has maintained, sparking further uncertainty in the financial markets.

The Search for Stability: Dividend Aristocrats

Against this backdrop, CNBC Pro conducted a screening for a class of stocks known as dividend aristocrats. These are the commendable companies that have achieved an impressive track record of increasing their dividend payments for at least a quarter of a century. To refine this list even further, criteria were imposed to narrow down the contenders: membership in the ProShares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats ETF (NOBL) was a must, along with a minimum dividend yield of 2%, and an approval rating with a buy consensus from over 51% of analysts. Even more compelling was the stipulation that average analyst price targets must forecast a minimum of a 10% rise looking ahead. Only four distinguished stocks fit these strict qualifications.

Chevron: A Titan Among Dividend Aristocrats

Chevron emerged as a prominent figure amongst these elite stocks, boasting a significant dividend yield of 4.1%. The company has not only maintained but also increased its dividend, most recently approving an 8% hike to $1.63, despite a decrease in its fourth-quarter earnings. Adding to Chevron’s appeal is its consistent history of prioritizing shareholder returns. Shares have experienced an upward momentum, increasing over 7% in the year 2024. Moreover, the trends of rising oil prices, which hit their peak since October earlier this week, have played to Chevron’s advantage.

Chevron's stock performance and additional information on its analytics can be helpful for prospective investors. Mizuho, a Japanese financial institution, elevated its price target on Chevron to $200 while keeping a buy rating firm and highlighting the company as a "top pick." Over half of the analysts surveyed by FactSet share a bullish stance on Chevron, with their projections indicating nearly an 11% potential upside.

McDonald's: A Fast-Food Giant with a Solid Dividend Profile

Another noteworthy name to make the list is the fast-food titan McDonald's, which offers investors a 2.4% dividend yield. Despite a near 7% dip in stock value in 2024, the company has grabbed headlines with its announcement to expand the availability of Krispy Kreme doughnuts nationwide by the end of 2026. This move could enhance McDonald's appeal and market reach.

Investor insights into McDonald's stock performance reveal that approximately 53% of analysts rate it as a buy, and they forecast an impressive 17% upside. There is a sense of optimism around the firm’s prospective earnings, despite Guggenheim downgrading its 2024 earnings prediction slightly. Analyst Gregory Francfort from Guggenheim notes, "We see near-term sales upside driving McDonald's to stand out in what could be a challenged 1Q restaurant earnings season given a slow start for the industry in 2024."

Coca-Cola and NextEra Energy: Diverse Dividend Payers

Among other dividend aristocrats to consider are Coca-Cola, a mainstay in the soft drink industry, and NextEra Energy, which has carved a niche for itself in the renewable energy sector. Both companies have demonstrated a consistent commitment to rewarding shareholders through dividends, adding a layer of diversification to this elite group of stocks. Information on the performance and forecasts of these companies would be equally valued by those looking to secure their investments.

While detailed insights into the specific performance of Coca-Cola and NextEra Energy were not provided in the CNBC Pro screening, the mention of these companies among the elite four highlights their potential as stable investments in a tumultuous market.

Securing Investments in Uncertain Times

Investors facing a convoluted market find themselves at a crossroads, seeking avenues that provide not only stability but growth potential. Dividend aristocrats, by their very nature, present a compelling option. These are companies engrained with robust financial health and a history of weathering economic uncertainties. The foundation of their appeal lies in their consistent dividend payouts, which represent a tangible return on investment irrespective of the market's performance.

The Allure of the Dividend Aristocrat

The moniker of a dividend aristocrat is not bestowed lightly. A company must have a proven track record of raising dividends year-on-year for at least 25 years, evidencing not just profitability but financial discipline and a shareholder-friendly approach. Add to this a backing by analysts and a projection of stock appreciation, and these companies become beacons for investors navigating the choppy waters of the stock market.

The Analytical Approach: Screening Criteria

The screening process undertaken by CNBC Pro lays down a comprehensive yet stringent framework to identify these stalwarts. Membership in the revered ProShares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats ETF (NOBL) is, in itself, a testament to a company's enduring capacity to distribute dividends. This ETF comprises companies known for their stable and increasing dividends, a quality that is indispensable in times of market instability.

The Yield Factor and Analyst Sentiment

A key element in the screening was the emphasis on a dividend yield of at least 2%, a number that suggests a worthwhile return on investment. Equally significant was the sentiment amongst analysts—a majority buy rating signalled a collective confidence in the stock's future performance. A common thread amongst these aristocrats is their evident ability to not just stay afloat but thrive in various market conditions, as forecasted by a minimum of 10% upside in stock price.

The Economic Environment’s Role

The ongoing discourse on inflation and interest rates sets an ominous tone for the markets. The Fed's remarks underscore the intricate balance between economic indicators and monetary policy. Investors are urged to interpret these signals, as they will invariably influence market dynamics and the performance of stocks across sectors. Dividend aristocrats might serve to alleviate some of this concern by providing a more sheltered avenue for investment.

The Role of Commodity Prices in Stock Valuations

Specifically pertaining to Chevron, the fluctuations in oil prices have a direct bearing on its financial performance and, by extension, its stock value. The recent uptick in oil prices has been beneficial, emboldening investor confidence and potentially reinforcing the company’s position as a solid dividend-payer amid economic fluctuations.

Market Diversification and Dividend Growth

Investing in companies like Coca-Cola and NextEra Energy diversifies the investment portfolio and taps into different consumer markets and industries. This diversification is a strategic move, particularly considering the growth potential in renewable energy and the enduring allure of consumer staples like soft drinks.

Final Thoughts: The Dividend Aristocrats as Market Beacons

In the pursuit of curating a resilient portfolio, investors may consider placing their bets on the storied dividend aristocrats. Amidst the tumult of the second quarter's rocky start, these emblems of reliability and growth serve as anchoring forces. By selecting companies that not only survive but flourish across economic cycles, investors can create a bulwark against volatility while continuing to advance their financial goals.

The Strategic Investor’s Toolkit

To further explore the dividend-paying titans mentioned in this article, interested investors and readers are invited to view the following sources for up-to-date information:

These resources offer an in-depth look at the current financial metrics and analyst expectations, guiding informed investment decisions in a period marked by uncertainty.

In conclusion, while the winds of change buffet the financial markets, there remains a category of stocks that seem to withstand the gale: the dividend aristocrats. As history has consistently demonstrated, these are the investments that do not merely endure but excel, carrying investors through times of economic unease with the promise of steady dividends and the potential for substantial growth.