After 10 years of> a flat stock market, there is a clamor for dividends in a fashion that would have been unthinkable a decade back. In the late 1990s, dividends were an afterthought. Now they re a primary focus, even for younger growth-oriented investors who previously considered income investing pass .
I don t believe in buying stocks for a dividend. In doing so, we too often factor in the payout in our mind well before it s actually paid, forgetting how often dividends get reduced, postponed or cut altogether.
More importantly, high dividend yields are oftentimes warning signals rather than a buying indicator, given they are usually offered by extremely weak stocks. Remember General Motors seemingly attractive dividends as its shares methodically collapsed? Or the banks? Or even steady dividend-paying pharmaceuticals like Merck or Pfizer, which have provided total returns of approximately -29% and -55% over the past 10 years?
It feels great to receive a dividend payment each quarter, but in reality most payouts have a negligible effect on your return if and when the stock tanks.
It just so happens, however, that in today s still erratic environment, telecom stocks, arguably the most old school dividend favorites, have also shown leading price action. According to research from Bespoke Investment Group, 89% of telecom stocks were trading above their 50-day moving averages last week, compared with only 39% of the S&P 500 and 53% of utilities. This is an objectively strong sector.
AT&T 3 years>
AT&T, which traces its roots back to the Bell Telephone Company founded by Alexander Graham Bell in the late 1800s, remains the dominant U.S. telecom concern, delivering fixed telephone, mobile, broadband and subscription TV services to over 150 million customers.
The company is also closely associated with Apple (AAPL)
America Movil S.A.B. de C.V (AMX) - 4 years>
Last year we highlighted opportunities in Mexico, including CurrencyShares Mexico Peso and America Movil, the country s dominant mobile phone operator and one of the world s largest telecom companies.
While the 0.90% dividend yield might not tantalize those specifically searching for hefty yields, the payout could ultimately rise with the stock, given the company s vast Latin American and Caribbean assets and 20% weighting in Mexico s IPC stock index. America Movil is popular across a number of investment themes, from emerging markets to income to telecom. Shares now appear poised to reclaim their 2007 all-time high above $60.
No Heartland Clich
Windstream Corporation (WIN) 4 years>
Windstream provides telephone, broadband and satellite TV service to 16 states across primarily rural America, a customer base it has been busily expanding with four acquisitions in the past three years, including a $1.2 billion purchase of Iowa Telecom completed earlier this month.
Given the industry s average dividend yield now hovers near 6.6%, Windstream s comparatively oversize 8% dividend payout would normally be a warning indicator, if not for the strength of shares, which are poised to reclaim early 2008 levels amid growing interest from the momentum crowd.