I'm certain that ten years from now, on the other side of the current eurozone debt crisis, higher demand and global scarcity will lead to higher prices for a wide range of commodities, such as corn and copper.
If you've got a long-term perspective and can stand the current pain, I think betting on that long-term trend makes sense. But it doesn't make as much sense as betting on the long-term scarcity of income-producing assets with solid credit ratings.
I'm absolutely certain that those will be in higher demand in that time frame, and that they will be in even shorter supply than corn or copper. And unlike many commodity plays, these income vehicles pay, well, income. Now.
Look at the trends.
The number of AAA-rated bond issuers in the world continues to shrink—even the number of AA-rated issuers is falling. On Tuesday, Fitch Ratings downgraded Japan two notches to A+. And how long do you think the US AA debt rating is going to last?
Prices of bonds will fall with declining ratings—which will send yields upward—after delivering big losses to bondholders. And that's not the only danger. The currencies of deeply indebted countries will depreciate at the same time. You might get paid more dollars, yen, or euros, but they'll be worth less.
And finally, as the world ages, pension funds, insurance companies, and the other institutions that are on the hook to deliver retirement payouts will have an increasing appetite for exactly the kind of income-producing assets that are in short, short supply: highly-rated, high-yielding, stable-currency bonds and dividend stocks.
Know where I'd like to put some of my money to profit from the thirst for income? In the high-dividend stocks of highly rated companies that do business in the world's strongest currencies.
And just in case you agree, I've put together a ten-name portfolio of exactly that kind of stock.
The Best Deal for Your Dollar Why start any kind of a portfolio, even a dividend portfolio, in this scary market? Because when stock prices are depressed, you can buy the most dividend for your investing buck.
And the dividend bargains are even more attractive when you consider that many of the world's strongest currencies are either in countries near the eurozone—where stocks have taken a pounding due to the debt crisis—or in commodity economies where stocks have been hit hard by the strength of the US dollar and fears of a slowdown in China's economy.
So what are likely to be the world's strongest currencies in the long run? First, I'd look to countries that run their government budgets and their financial systems very conservatively. That means Norway, Sweden, Singapore, and Chile.
Second, I'd look to countries with commodity-dominated economies that have a record of coping reasonably well with the wild swings typical of a commodity economy. I'd include Canada and Australia in that group.
Third, I'd be willing to risk a position or two on stocks in countries where the trend in the credit rating is upward, and where the fiscal policies of the government show encouraging discipline. That would include Colombia, Peru, and Indonesia. (But be aware that the risk of these countries going off the track is higher; the history we can look at is relatively short.)
Here are the first five stocks for this portfolio (with dividend yields as of May 23):
Bradken (BRKNF.PK) This also trades as BKN in Australia; 9.42% dividend yield.
Rather than making the big diggers produced by Caterpillar (CAT) or Joy Global (JOY), Australia's Bradken produces things like spare parts for grinding mills and slurry pump consumables, as well as providing services such as dragline refurbishment. (About 52% of sales are consumables, the company says.)
The company, which has been around since 1922, grew revenues by 28% in the first half of its 2012 fiscal year, and saw EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) climb by 11%. The company raised its dividend 5% in 2011.
CorpBanca (BCA) 7.71% yield. Chile's fourth-largest bank by loans took a big step outside that country's borders with its April purchase of the Colombia banking assets of Spain's Banco Santander (STD). I'd let this one settle a bit, since CorpBanca has just announced that it will sell $550 million in new shares to help finance that acquisition.
GrainCorp (GRCLF.PK) This also trades in Australia as GNC; 4.57% yield.
Australia's GrainCorp is one of the last remaining independent grain-trading companies in a sector that is consolidating quickly. I think it's a good candidate for acquisition sometime in the next 18 months. In the meantime, the company is projected to grow earnings per share by 13% in the fiscal year that ends in September.
Keppel Land (KPPLF.PK) This also trades as KPLD.SP in Singapore; 7.09% yield.
With Singapore's Keppel Land, you get a piece of high-profile Singapore projects such as Ocean Financial Centre, Marina Bay Financial Centre, and One Raffles Quay. You also get commercial and residential projects in Vietnam, Indonesia, and China.
About 33% of assets are in China, with 18,000 homes sold to date and an additional 43,000 in the pipeline. Keppel Land also owns 400,000 square meters (nearly 100 acres) of commercial space in Vietnam, Indonesia, and China.
Keppel uses revenues from its property management unit to offset the cyclicality of property development. That 7% yield is a good payout while you're waiting for the eventual turn in China's real-estate market.
Northern Property REIT (NPRUF.PK) This also trades as NPR-U.CN in Canada; 5% yield.
Northern Property concentrates on residential properties (66% of its holdings) with a big focus on Alberta (31% of properties).That makes this REIT a high-yield, low-risk way to play the boom in Alberta's oil sands region. More development means more workers who, along with their families, need housing. Revenue grew by 13.5% in 2011 from 2010.
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