This story originally appeared on MarketBeat
In a time of economic uncertainty, there is something to be said about low-risk dividend stocks. Companies whose fortunes aren’t directly tied to economic health and that pay a reliable dividend can be a comforting investment to those that aren’t keen on taking on a lot of risk.
Here we highlight three stocks that offer a steady dividend and some peace of mind as the economic recovery unfolds. They aren’t likely to make you rich anytime soon, but they will make for some more restful nights ahead
Is Coca-Cola Still a Buy-and-Hold Stock?
If Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) is a refreshing investment for value legend Warren Buffet, it should be good enough for the rest of us. Regardless of the economic backdrop, there will always be consumer demand for sodas, juices, teas, and other beverages.
With this said, restrictions on large gatherings during the pandemic have impacted Coke’s recent financial performances and brought more volatility than usual to the stock. However, with the worst likely over, the company appears to be on the path back to more normalized sales patterns. As family picnics and outdoor concerts gradually return along with restaurant traffic, Coke should start to see higher volumes based on group size rather than stockpiling.
Despite recording 11% lower revenue in 2020, Coke kept its dividend hike streak going serving up a $1.64 payout to loyal shareholders. The 2.4% dividend increase made it 59 straight years of higher dividends.
In the near-term Coke is a conservative way to play the economic reopening theme. Its beverage portfolio is more in tune with health and wellness trends with brands like Vitaminwater, PowerAde, and Minute Maid. As activities like youth sports and amusement park attendance normalize, Coke’s performance should improve.
Longer-term Coke’s rising dividend and defensive nature make it the classic buy and hold stock. So, investors can simply opt to have what Warren’s drinking.
What is a Good Non-Cyclical Dividend Stock?
Speaking of defensive stocks, Unilever (NYSE:UL) is about as non-cyclical as its gets. The U.K.-based consumer products giant is the company behind many of our favorite personal care and food items. Dove soap, Axe body spray, Q-tips, and Vaseline are all Unilever brands. So too are popular indulgences like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Lipton iced teas (and soups), Hellmann’s mayonnaise, and even the beloved Popsicle brand.
Unilever is definitely, a mature, low growth business, but sometimes slow and steady wins the race. After rising 9% and 6% in 2019 and 2020, respectively, the low volatility stock is down approximately 8% this year offering investors a good chance to stock up.
Although the elevated demand for Unilever’s food products has waned in recent quarters, it’s pretty much a sure bet that people will still be scooping up their go-to items as shopping patterns normalize. And as usual, this should lead to some solid profits for Unilever and sizeable dividends for shareholders.
Unilever has one of the strongest balance sheets in its peer group that supports an ability to pursue growth opportunities such as product expansion and establishing a greater presence in developing markets. The ADR currently has a 3.4% trailing dividend yield which about twice the average dividend yield of the consumer staples sector. This is an easy stock to throw in the cart as a core long-term holding.
Is it a Good Time to Buy 3M Stock?
3M (NYSE:MMM) has been one of the least volatile U.S. large cap stocks over the last ten years. Although it’s not a consumer defensive company, it’s highly diversified end markets generate some reliable financial results. With broad exposure to the automotive, aerospace, transportation, electronics, and health care industries as well as the consumer space, a downturn in one segment can be easily offset by strength in another.
The company has had some choppy performances in recent quarters. Some of it has related to the pandemic and some has not. Demand for home improvement, cleaning, food safety, and personal safety products has been strong. On the other hand, COVID-19 restrictions have forced the automotive, industrial, office supplies, and oral care businesses to re-evaluate how to adjust to the post pandemic economy.
Fresh off a corporate restructuring, though, 3M looks to be in a good position to capitalize on improving conditions in its key markets and achieve its earnings growth goal. Management is aiming to reduce annual operating expenses by at least $250 million. Based on the initial progress, this looks feasible and should drive higher margins and steady single digit growth over the long-term.
3M consistently rakes in some $30 billion in revenue each year and even in slow or no growth years it rewards shareholders with a higher dividend. In fact, 3M has gone toe to toe with Coca-Cola in raising its annual dividend in each of the last 59 years. The Dow Jones index mainstay has a 3.1% dividend yield and at 23x earnings is trading at the lower end of its historical valuation range. It deserves to be a mainstay in any long-term investment portfolio.