4 High Yields that Won't Last Long

Todd Shriber's picture

Friday, September 9, 2011 - 1:00pm

by Todd Shriber

The term "accidental high yielder" became prominent in the investment lexicon during the financial crisis. Now, it seems like every time the market falls, pundits and investors alike start talking about a fresh crop of dividend-paying stocks that sport inviting yields. Overused or not, there is something to be said for investing in these "accidental" high yielders. The trick is picking the right ones...
   
In layman's terms, an accidental high yielder is a good stock that has been beaten up, perhaps too much, to the point that its dividend yield is now considered high, either by the standards of its peer group or the standards of the broader market (a dividend yield of 5% typically is the start of the area where yields are considered "high.")
   
Accidental or otherwise, high-yield investors must remember a few things. One of the most important factors to acknowledge is that in the case of most common stocks (not MLPs, REITs or royalty trusts), a high yield often happens when a stock's price has gone down, and there is rarely a good reason behind it. Put another way, a dividend increase alone won't always result in a high yield because dividend increases are viewed as positive news, and investors have a tendency to bid up stocks that have recently announced dividend hikes.
   
Beyond that, critical to the high yield is potential for capital appreciation and the company's ability to maintain, if not increase, its dividend going forward. After all, no one wants to get stuck holding the bag on a stock with a rising yield and a payout vulnerable to suspension or elimination.

Here are four "accidental" high yielders to consider that have the combination of yield, potential and reliability.

1) Transocean (NYSE: RIG):
The oil services group is not known to be a dividend lover's paradise. But then again, Transocean isn't your typical dividend stock, either. Viewed as one of the primary villains of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill along with BP (NYSE: BP), Transocean fought in various Swiss courts for close to a year to get permission to pay the dividend it now pays, so there's an element of controversy here.

Beyond that, Transocean does not have a lengthy dividend history. The dividend the company started paying this year was its quarterly payout since 2002. In other words, this isn't Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) when it comes to regular dividend increases. In Transocean's defense, it's dividend is far higher in dollar terms than Exxon Mobil's (NYSE: XOM) and Chevron's (NYSE: CVX), two of the more typical destinations for oil dividends, with a 6% yield that is more than twice as high as Exxon's and nearly double that of Chevron's.

This yield is far above the norm for an oil services stock. And with the stock trading in the mid-$50s, this is one yield primed to decline because Transocean could easily return to the $70s in the months ahead.

2) ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP):
The third-largest U.S. oil company currently yields in the neighborhood of 4%, which isn't "high" by the standard definition. But the yield is higher than most of its peer group -- and definitely higher than primary rivals Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

ConocoPhillips is in the midst of a $17 billion asset sales program aimed at raising cash and shoring up its balance sheet. Part of the reason the company is doing this is to show its commitment to the dividend. The company recently announced it will spin-off its refining and marketing operations next year and also said the exploration and production business will retain the current dividend. This will make Conoco far and away the best dividend payer among independent oil stocks.

In other words, check out the payouts and yields on the likes of Apache (NYSE: APA) and Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC). Not only will Conoco be bigger than both as an independent oil company, it will also have a far bigger payout.

3) New York Community Bancorp (NYSE: NYB):
Alright, I know what you're thinking. How does a bank stock make a list of accidental high yielders? Fair question, given all the controversy surrounding bank stocks. But in the case of New York Community, it should be noted this isn't Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) or Citigroup (NYSE: C) we're talking about. New York Community currently yields a whopping 8%, and given its less risky business practices, offers a reasonable chance for capital appreciation going forward.

Sure, it has been more than seven years since the bank raised its dividend. Then again, it didn't cut or suspend its payout during the financial crisis either. This is definitely a stock worth researching further...

4) Senior Housing Properties Trust (NYSE: SNH):
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are considered financial services stocks.  Painting the group with this brush can make for some trying times for investors because REITs tend to get lumped in with bank stocks, when the comparison is often apples-to-oranges. Most REITs don't make loans, take deposits, or engage in riskier bank practices such as issuing credit cards. Staying away from typical banking fare has helped many REITs maintain dependable and predictable dividends. [Carla Pasternak, editor of StreetAuthority's High-Yield Investing, recently called REITS "The Easiest Way to Invest in Real Estate"]

But it can also create opportunity.

The opportunity comes in the form of Senior Housing Properties, which is currently yielding a robust 6.6%. As one of the largest operators of assisted living facilities in the United States, Senior Housing Properties is in a demographic sweet spot, due to the aging U.S. population. The dividend has grown by more than 20% in the past decade and, unlike so many other REITs, the payout was not suspended or reduced during the financial crisis.

Risks to Consider: Of the stocks mentioned here, Transocean is easily the riskiest, but it may also have the most upside. Any bad news on the legal front related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill would likely send this stock lower. Further pressure on oil prices would hamper both Transocean and ConocoPhillips. The financial services sector is far from out of the woods, and continued struggles for that sector could weigh on New York Community.

Action to Take--> The good news is conservative investors can get acquainted with three of the names on this list, with Transocean being the exception. For those who want some financial services exposure, New York Community or Senior Housing Properties will serve a portfolio far better than a major money center bank stock. Despite the element of controversy, Transocean offers adventurous dividend hunters the best opportunity for capital growth of the quartet.

Todd Shriber does not personally hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.
StreetAuthority LLC does not hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.