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The 3 Best Dow Dividend Stocks for 2018

Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool

The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI) are a great place for income investors to find great dividend stocks. All 30 Dow components pay dividends, and many of them have put together long track records of dividend growth that span for decades.

Yet even though the blue-chip companies in the Dow cut across nearly every sector of the economy and make up a broad cross-section of business in the U.S. and around the world, some of its stocks stand out both for their dividends and their future growth prospects. Below, you'll learn why Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), Chevron (NYSE: CVX), and Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) are poised to see break-out performance in 2018 while rewarding shareholders who need reliable dividend income.

Three people in lab coats looking through a Pfizer-logoed petri dish.

Image source: Pfizer.

Pfizer looks to get healthier

2017 has been a challenging year for Pfizer, with the pharmaceutical giant facing many of the same challenges that its peers across the industry have had to deal with lately. Patent protection expirations put downward pressure on revenue and profits, and new competition ate into the financial performance of some of its key drug franchises. Moreover, Pfizer didn't see a lot of high-profile approvals for new treatments and suffered a few disappointments in its clinical trial pipeline. Yet even with those challenges, Pfizer found a way to give shareholders a 7% dividend boost, extending its streak of higher payouts to seven years in a row.

Moreover, Pfizer is poised to rebound. The tax reform package that is working its way through Congress could have substantial benefits for the company, with the potential to allow low-tax repatriation of overseas profits that could spur further investment in its business or lead to higher dividend growth. A modest valuation makes Pfizer shares a good value in a pricey market, and the potential for a spinoff of its consumer healthcare business could also drive interest in the stock. With a current yield of 3.5% and room for growth, Pfizer has good upside potential while rewarding those who stick with it.

Offshore oil rig with a supporting vessel floating nearby.

Image source: Chevron.

Chevron seeks more energy

Another industry that has lagged lately is the oil and gas sector. Although crude oil prices have rebounded from their weakest levels, they've still languished well below where they were several years ago. That's kept Chevron's earnings in check, and its current dividend exceeds its earnings over the past 12 months, raising some warning signs for income investors.

A couple of encouraging things about Chevron should provide some comfort to investors. First, Chevron has boosted the amount it has paid dividend investors each year for 29 straight years, and 2017 is poised to be the 30th even if the oil giant doesn't make a payout change during the calendar year because of the timing of its 2016 increase. More importantly, Chevron has started to gravitate more toward the exploration and production side of the business, selling off downstream assets at a favorable time and picking up interesting assets in key areas like the Permian Basin. Combined with the potential that the rise of liquefied natural gas transportation will provide for global growth, Chevron is putting ideas in motion to generate enough earnings to support its 3.6% dividend yield in 2018 and beyond.

Five Coke bottles with increasing amounts of liquid in them, lined up in a row.

Image source: Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola looks to get back its fizz

For 55 years in a row, Coca-Cola has been able to increase its dividend, and a 3.2% yield is still among the upper echelon of Dow stocks. Yet Coca-Cola has had to deal with difficult conditions in its industry as well. The beverage giant has been under attack for its namesake sweet carbonated beverages, with many health advocates blaming the obesity epidemic on factors like heightened consumption of high-sugar drinks.

In response, Coca-Cola is fighting back with reformulations of over 500 products in 2018. Its intent is to reduce its past reliance on sugar and instead push its Zero Sugar brands as well as bottled waters and other beverage categories. Refranchising efforts for its bottling operations should also produce a more capital-light business model that can support more aggressive pursuits of new opportunities. That could also boost internal metrics like return on equity, leading to greater investor appreciation of the business and rising share prices.

Go with the Dow for dividends

The Dow is a great place to go to find well-known dividend stocks. These three picks have challenges to overcome, but their combination of value and current income make them solid candidates for those looking to flesh out their dividend stock portfolios for 2018.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.