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Dividend stocks set for recovery

Published on 02-26-2024

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How to ride the trend


If all the portents are right, 2024 should be a good year for dividend stocks. It’s about time. These normally dependable low-risk securities were savaged during the sharp run-up in interest rates as the central banks fired all their guns at the inflationary genie.

Solid utilities like Fortis saw the market price of its shares fall 19% between May 2022 and September 2023. Enbridge was down 23.7%. BCE lost almost 25%. Talk about blood in the streets!

This was not supposed to happen to conservative portfolios, but it did. Investors were shell-shocked, and with good reason.

The good news is that the share prices of these securities should recover as interest rates stabilize and eventually reverse course. The U.S. Federal Reserve Board signalled in December that it anticipates lowering interest rates three times this year. There’s no guarantee, of course – inflation may decide to hang around longer than expected. But all signs indicate the next moves from the central banks will be down, not up.

So, how can you take advantage of this situation? One possibility is to emulate my model High Yield Portfolio, which is tracked in my Income Investor newsletter. Our last review was in September, at a time when interest-sensitive securities were bottoming out. At that point, the portfolio was showing an average annual compound total rate of return of 7.8% over 11 1/2 years. Annual cash flow at that time was 5.7%, which forms part of the overall return. Some of the stocks we hold are Enbridge, Pembina Pipeline, Sun Life Financial, Capital Power, BCE, and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

If you’re confident in your stock-picking abilities, you could build your own dividend portfolio. Make sure it’s properly diversified across all the key sectors: financials, utilities, telecoms, REITs, and pipelines. There are also good dividend payers in areas you wouldn’t normally consider. Examples are Russel Metals, with a dividend yield of 3.6%, and Aecon Group, which yields 5.4%.

Dividend ETFs

Another possibility is to invest in dividend ETFs. There are dozens of them in Canada. The iShares S&P/TSX Dividend Aristocrats Index ETF (TSX: CDZ) is one that should be considered. It was recommended in Income Investor in 2011.

This ETF invests in a portfolio of large cap stocks that have increased dividends annually for at least five consecutive years. No position is larger than 3.25%, so it’s a well-balanced portfolio. Holdings include Aecon Group, Chartwell Retirement Residences, Great West Life, CIBC, and Power Corp. The fund gained 9.26% in 2023 and has a 10-year average annual compound rate of return of 6.41%. Monthly distributions are currently $0.106 per unit. It was recently trading at $31.25.

Another Canadian ETF to look at is the iShares Core MSCI Canadian Quality Dividend Index ETF (TSX: XDIV). It invests in a portfolio of Canadian high-dividend stocks with steady or increasing yields. It gained 16.4% in 2023, more than double the return of the TSX Composite.

This is a more concentrated portfolio, with only 17 holdings. That means bigger bets on each stock, which translates to greater return potential but higher risk. Top holdings are Royal Bank (9.81% of the portfolio), Manulife Financial (9.65%), Pembina Pipeline (8.97%), TD Bank (8.93%), and Fortis (8.71%). Distributions are paid monthly and are currently running at $0.103 per unit. The units recently traded at $25.64.

If you’re interested in a U.S.-based dividend ETF, consider the iShares Core Dividend Growth ETF (NYSE: DGRO), which was recently trading at US$53.94. It invests in a diversified, equal weight portfolio of U.S. companies with a history of dividend growth. The names are familiar to all investors and include JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, AbbVie, and Broadcom. The fund gained 10.43% in 2023 and has a five-year average annual compound rate of return of 12.88%.

I like dividend stocks in all circumstances, but I think they look especially attractive this year, given the current situation. If you are underweight in these securities, now is the time to stock up.

Gordon Pape is one of Canada’s best-known personal finance commentators and investment experts. He is the publisher of The Internet Wealth Builder and The Income Investor newsletters, which are available through the Building Wealth website.

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Notes and Disclaimer

Content © 2024 by Gordon Pape Enterprises. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. The foregoing is for general information purposes only and is the opinion of the writer. Securities mentioned carry risk of loss, and no guarantee of performance is made or implied. This information is not intended to provide specific personalized advice including, without limitation, investment, financial, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Always seek advice from your own financial advisor before making investment decisions.

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