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8 Dividend Aristocrat Stocks to Buy Now No Matter What

With the U.S.-China trade war seemingly getting uglier by the minute, investors are scrambling for defensive stocks to buy now. Of course, in the most extreme example, you can elect to go all into cash. However, history has proven that to be the worst thing to do. Instead, this is a perfect time to consider dividend aristocrats.

First, market uncertainty incentivizes stable dividend stocks to buy now. How so? Passive-income generating companies typically perform better than high-flying growth names during bearish phases. For one thing, investors can still collect their payouts even if their portfolio isn’t doing too well. Moreover, organizations that have a history of consistent payouts tend to be levered toward secular or otherwise steady industries.

And there’s no better paragon of stability than dividend aristocrats. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, dividend aristocrats have three main requirements: they must be equities traded in the S&P 500, have 25 years-plus of dividend increases and meet size/liquidity benchmarks.

However, a word of caution. Just because you put dividend aristocrats in your list of stocks to buy now doesn’t guarantee a smooth ride. If the markets turn volatile, you can expect virtually all names to incur red ink.

But the major selling point is magnitude. With dividend aristocrats, you’re limiting your potential losses due to the robustness of the target company. Better yet, the volatility provides a rare discount for these stalwarts of industry.

So with that in mind, here are eight stocks to buy now with a long track record of payouts:

Stocks to Buy: McDonald’s (MCD)

Dividend Yield: 2.1%

I’m going to start my list of stocks to buy now with a name I was wrong about: McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD). One of the reasons why I didn’t like MCD stock was that the Golden Arches apparently wasn’t winning over millennials. But recently, I started eating out at McDonald’s, and I discovered that the real fundamentals don’t match the “paper” data.

For instance, the McDonald’s app is incredibly convenient. You order what you want on your phone and go up to the counter or the drive-thru. Very quickly, their employees deliver your selected items. And let’s talk about the drive-thru: it’s lightning-quick, even with rows of waiting cars. That’s a major plus for MCD stock.

Finally, McDonald’s is a proud member of the dividend aristocrats. It has increased its payout consistently over a 43-year period. If a downturn were to impact the markets, MCD stock is a name you’ll want to own.

Colgate-Palmolive (CL)

Dividend Yield: 2.4%

When you’re on the hunt for stable stocks to buy now, you don’t want to get too cute. Instead, you’ll want to go with a proven name like Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL). The investment thesis for CL stock is straightforward and simple. Even in times of recession, people still need to brush their teeth. Thus, I expect a steady revenue stream no matter what happens in the coming months and years.

I do have one caveat about CL stock: this doesn’t quite belong on a list of stocks to buy now if you’re interpreting “now” literally. However, I’m still putting it high on my list because I think shares will quickly fall to a more attractive price point. Personally, I’m eyeballing the equity’s 200-day moving average, which is around $66.

But even if you were to hit the buy button now, I believe CL stock will give you excellent protection over the coming months. Keep in mind that Colgate-Palmolive has increased their dividends for 55 years. That’s an impressive feat, even compared to other dividend aristocrats. Further, it’s a status that management won’t give up without a fight.

Cardinal Health (CAH)

Dividend Yield: 4.5%

In recent years, the healthcare sector has suffered a black eye from a public relations standpoint. Thus, it’s no surprise that many companies in this segment have faltered. However, I’d consider putting Cardinal Health (NYSE:CAH) on your list of stocks to buy now. Unlike other players in this broad category, CAH stock is strongly levered to secular demand.

In other words, Cardinal Health has a wide range of professional medical products. They run the gamut from anesthesia-related equipment to laboratory products down to something as mundane as gloves. While medical technology is always improving, some things will always remain the same. For these everyday concerns in the medical field, Cardinal Health has folks covered. Ultimately, that’s a great catalyst for CAH stock.

Another factor is that the company very much belongs on the list of dividend aristocrats. While the exact number of dividend increases causes some disagreement, CAH is included in the Proshares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats ETF (BATS:NOBL). And whatever the case, it has reliably raised dividends for at least the last 14 years.

Aflac (AFL)

Dividend Yield: 2%

Simply put, Aflac (NYSE:AFL) is a great company with an incredibly relevant service. As you no doubt have learned through their quirky commercials, Aflac specializes in supplemental insurance. Essentially, their range of products protect you financially from incidents that “regular” insurance doesn’t cover or cover adequately. Plus, their solutions represent an incremental cost for much peace of mind, bolstering the case for AFL stock.

And while most millennials probably think they’re invincible, many will encounter situations that give them a reality check. Additionally, they may hear horror stories about how coverage gaps financially ruined one of their peers. Whatever the case, Aflac, and by logical deduction, AFL stock, has opportunities to rise through word of mouth.

Finally, Aflac is one of the most stable stocks to buy now among dividend aristocrats. Currently, the dividend payout ratio for AFL stock is only 25%. That gives management considerable cushion to pay their shareholders while still investing richly in their business.

Kimberly-Clark (KMB)

Dividend Yield: 3%

I don’t always prepare for recessions. But when I do, I take a long look at Kimberly-Clark (NYSE:KMB). If you’re concerned about a prolonged downturn in the U.S. or global economy, you’ll also want to consider KMB stock. As with Colgate-Palmolive, the bullish argument here is very simple: even in recessions, people need to use the bathroom.

And without getting graphic, people also need to take care of themselves after a lengthy session with the porcelain throne. Kimberly-Clark offers some of the best products for this endeavor, and I speak from personal experience. Moreover, the company has other family-care products. If you think about it, KMB stock is truly a cradle-to-grave investment.

One knock on KMB stock, though, is that its payout ratio of 78% is a bit on the high side. But on the other hand, it pays out an attractive 3% yield. Furthermore, Kimberly-Clark has traded among dividend aristocrats for 46 years. That makes its shares one of the stocks to buy now in my book.

Chevron (CVX)

Dividend Yield: 4%

With the U.S. and China trading barbs and sanctions, it’s no surprise that oil companies like Chevron (NYSE:CVX) fell. On surface level, CVX stock currently faces two major headwinds. First, global volatility means lower demand overall for energy. Second, the push for clean and renewable energies makes CVX stock appear antiquated, and perhaps soon approaching irrelevancy.

Admittedly, the first point is going to be a major distraction for Chevron. However, even in the middle of a recession, people still require transportation. Thus, I don’t see demand falling completely off the cliff. On the second point, I believe green energy is more a gimmick than a practical reality. Our infrastructure is simply not ready to accommodate innovations like electric vehicles on a mass scale.

Granted, CVX stock is a risky play among this list of stocks to buy now. That said, the trade war dynamic should drive shares to an attractive discount. At that point, I think Chevron becomes a bargain because the world still needs fossil-fuel-based energy.

AT&T (T)

Dividend Yield: 6%

With AT&T (NYSE:T), we’re really getting into the riskier side of the dividend stocks to buy now. I say this for a couple of reasons. One, with a yield of 6%, sustainability becomes a concern. Second, and a perfect segue, the dividend payout ratio for T stock is on-paper astronomical. Therefore, many bears anticipate that AT&T will lose its status as one of the key dividend aristocrats.

However, it’s important to point out that telecoms usually have extremely large depreciation and amortization costs. That artificially depresses earnings, which makes the high payout ratio somewhat deceptive. Still, I concede the point that T stock is saddled with an unprecedented debt level. Its big-moat, slow-growth narrative is distracting, especially when we may be headed toward a recession.

That said, this criticism focuses on the headline print. In reality, AT&T is one of very few companies that have the resources and know-how to roll out the 5G network. And because we’re in a tech cold war with international adversaries, I see the government supporting T stock big time.

3M (MMM)

Dividend Yield: 3.5%

Last on my list of stocks to buy now is applied-sciences firm 3M (NYSE:MMM). After providing largely steady gains over the last several decades, MMM stock is in trouble. Hitting a peak around February of 2018, shares have formed an ugly bearish trend channel. Efforts to time the bottom have badly bruised speculators.

Surely, I’m not alone when I say that I dislike the phrase “this time, it’s different.” It’s almost bad karma to use those words when discussing an investment thesis. However, I genuinely believe that with MMM stock, this is a valid descriptor.

One of the toughest challenges for MMM stock is that the underlying company didn’t have a relevant product. That calculus has changed with their latest “Flex & Seal Shipping Roll.” Essentially, this is a customizable shipping package that doesn’t require tape or other cumbersome equipment.

Looking at the video demonstration of Flex & Seal, I think it’s a game-changer for retail. By logical deduction, then, it’s a game-changer for MMM stock.

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