President Trump’s announcement that he has tested positive for the corona virus has grabbed headlines, but the dog that didn’t bark presents a more interesting point. Wall Street isn’t so worried about corona virus anymore; the perception is, that the virus will fade away or a vaccine will be developed, but in either case, the economy will improve.
According to an RBC survey of portfolio managers, however, the coming November election presents a clear risk to the markets. A large majority of investors surveyed, 76%, worry that the election will be contested, resulting in weeks – possibly months – on uncertainty. And uncertainty is bad for the markets.
Recent events, and some not-to-distant history, bear them out. For the history, we must only look back to 2000, when it took until December 12, and an appeal to the Supreme Court, to decide the results of the Florida recount. The S&P 500 slipped 5% during those weeks – and that was uncertainty caused by one state, recounting a limited number of votes.
The point here is not that this election will be fraudulent or illegitimate. Rather, like Caesar’s wife, the election should be above the perception of impropriety – and this year, that bar may be too high. And then the challenges will begin. In the RBC survey, 83% of portfolio managers believed that such challenges, contesting the election results (from either direction) would be a net negative for the stock market. And only a small minority, 14%, believe that the final results will be known when the polls close on Election Day, November 3.
And this is what brings us to dividend stocks today. When investors get nervous, they go looking for a way to protect their portfolios – and dividends, making the promise of a steady income stream, may be just the answer skittish shareholders are looking for.
Analysts from research firm Compass Point agree. They have picked three stocks whose dividends are yielding 7% or more. We’ve pulled up the TipRanks data to find out what else makes these compelling buys in turbulent times.
Saratoga Investment Corporation (SAR)
We’ll start with Saratoga Investment Corporation, a mid-market investment management company that specializes in debt, appreciation, and equity investments. Saratoga has over $480 million in assets under management, and its portfolio includes home security, industry, software, and waste disposal. The variety, and the stocks chosen, are designed to give the company a resilient income stream.
That doesn’t mean that Saratoga has been able to dodge the corona bullet. The company saw revenues turn negative in Q2, and has seen EPS slip from 61 cents in the first quarter to 51 cents in the second. As a result, Saratoga announced that it was deferring its fiscal Q4 dividend, as a cash-saving measure during the pandemic crisis.
Saratoga, in July, declared its fiscal Q1 dividend for 40 cents per common share – and paid it out in August. There are grounds for confidence. The company has $9 million in committed, but undrawn, lending available, along with $155 million in available credit facilities, a new $43.1 million baby bond issue, and $282 million equity – all set against just $60 million in long-term debt.
As for the restored dividend, while down 28% from the company’s last dividend payment, the new distribution reflects Saratoga’s liquidity position. The current payment annualizes to $1.60, and gives a yield of 9.2%, or more than 4.5x the average yield found among S&P-listed companies.
Covering the stock for Compass Point, analyst Casey Alexander writes of the new dividend, “[With] the dividend now officially reset at $0.40 per quarter, it's time to make lemonade from the lemons investors were handed… In our view, while we may not be done with credit issues, SAR has set the dividend at a level that allows the BDC to return to the pattern of QoQ dividend increases as the current earnings power of the BDC well exceeds the level of the new dividend.”
Taking everything into account, Alexander rates SAR stock a Buy, and gives it a $19.75 price target implying an upside of 16% for the coming year. (To watch Alexander’s track record, click here)
Overall, Saratoga gets a unanimous Strong Buy rating from the analyst consensus, based on 3 recent positive reviews. The shares are selling for $17.02 and have an average price target of $22.58, slightly more bullish than Alexander’s and suggesting a one-year upside of ~33%. (See SAR stock analysis on TipRanks)
Solar Capital, Ltd. (SLRC)
The next stock on our list, Solar Capital, is an investor in senior secured loans and subordinated debt, with an investment portfolio of middle-market companies. The company puts capital into investment-grade loan instruments, making additional financing available to its customer base. Solar Capital has a portfolio worth $1.4 billion invested in 183 companies across 80 business sectors.
Solar Capital has been able to keep earnings positive during the ‘corona half,’ despite a sharp fall in the bottom line for Q1 and Q2. In a bright spot, revenues, which turned negative in Q1, were back to positive in Q2, and projections for Q3 earnings show that the fall-off is either slowing or stopping – we will find out which in the Q3 report on November 5.
Through all of this uncertainty, Solar Capital has kept up its stable dividend. The company has a 7-year history of reliable dividend payments, and the current quarterly dividend of 41 cents has been paid out consistently for the last 11 quarters. At an annualized payment of $1.64, the dividend currently yields 10.5%. In a time of near-zero official interest rate policy, this gives SLRC an enviable return.
Compass Point's Casey Alexander, who also covers SAR, points out that SLRC’s dividend is the main attraction for investors – and that management has cultivated it for just that purpose.
“Management stated their intention to continue to pay the $0.41 per share dividend because they believe there is visibility to dividend coverage as they begin to originate new assets at higher spreads. This is the environment that SLRC has been waiting for, and has been the principal reason for maintaining an under-leveraged posture for the last several years,” Alexander noted.
With dividend coverage visible ahead, Alexander gives SLRC a Buy rating. His price target, at $17.75, indicates confidence in a 12% upside potential.
This is another stock with a unanimous Strong Buy consensus rating. SLRC is sitting pretty with 5 positive reviews on record. The average price target is $18.20, representing a ~15% upside from the current share price of $15.86. (See SLRC stock analysis on TipRanks)
First Hawaiian (FHB)
Our last stock today, First Hawaiian, is the holding company owning the First Hawaiian Bank. First Hawaiian offers the usual array of banking services to retail and commercial customers, with 53 branches throughout the Hawaiian Islands along with three others in Guam and two on Saipan. Banking services include loans, deposit accounts, credit and debit cards, mortgages, insurance, and retirement plans.
The recently ended second-quarter showed some mixed results. Top line revenues showed a sequential slip, from $164 million to $152 million, but that was mild compared to the 46% drop in earnings. EPS for Q2 came in at 16 cents, on $20 million in net income. Bright spots for the quarter were total loans, which grew 3% to $383 million, and deposit balances, which increased 13% sequentially to reach $2.3 billion. The bank’s total assets at the end of 2Q20 were $23 billion, up 10% from the end of the first quarter.
That is the background behind management’s July dividend declaration. The company Board approved a 26-cent regular quarterly dividend, which was paid out in early September. At $1.04 annualized, this dividend yields 7.2%, putting it well above the average yield – and far higher than the current yield on Treasury bonds. FHB has a 4-year history of reliable dividend payments, and the current declaration marks the seventh quarter in a row at the current level.
Compass Point analyst Laurie Havener Hunsicker believes a macro look at FHB justifies a bullish stance.
“FHB was a clear outperformer on credit during the last crisis. While past results do not dictate future performance, we are impressed with the FHB management team and their credit culture; further, we believe that FHB is well-postured to again outperform on credit during the COVID-19 crisis,” the analyst noted.
In line with her comments, Hunsicker rates FHB a Buy and sets a $21 price target that suggests room for a robust share appreciation of 46% over the next year. (To watch Hunsicker’s track record, click here)
However, Wall Street is unsure on FHB, and the analysts are evenly divided, with recent reviews coming in at 1 Buy, 1 Hold, and 1 Sell – for an analyst consensus rating of Hold. FHB shares are selling for $14.42 and have an average price target of $16.67, making the upside potential 15%. (See First Hawaiian’s stock analysis at TipRanks)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.