The search for yield is now a global game, as investors track down income-paying stocks to deflect them from the miserable returns on cash and bonds. UK investors are at an advantage because the FTSE 100 is still crammed with top dividend yielders. Stocks like these three.
Living Aviva loca
Insurance giant Aviva(LSE: AV) offers a nifty income stream of 4.53%. Better still, the income prospects look good, with the yield forecast to hit 5.1% at the end of this year. Nothing is certain when it comes to investing, and current dividend cover of 1.1 is on the low side. Aviva cut its dividend by half in August 2013, so it has form on this front, but cover is forecast to rise to 1.8, giving investors a much greater degree of security.
The stock took a bashing after Brexit, but it has recovered strongly since. This suggests it could be vulnerable once Theresa May triggers Article 50, and of course insurance companies are exposed to stock market turmoil. On the plus side, this means it could benefit from a Trump reflation. Forecast earnings per share (EPS) growth of 80% this year and 16% in 2017 look promising, pushing the forecast yield to a tempting 5.8% by 31 December 2017.
Plug into National Grid
Multinational electricity and gas utility National Grid (LSE: NG) has been my favourite utility for some time, but lately it has lost some of its sizzle. The share price is down 15% in the last three months, with investors cooling on the stock after this month's disappointing half-year report. Adjusted operating profit increased by just 1%, and that was after favourable exchange rate movements and payment timings. Sterling weakness drove up the cost of its dollar-denominated debt, which jumped from £25.3bn to £29.2bn over the period.
None of this worries me. National Grid owns and operates vital electricity and gas infrastructure across the UK and parts of the US, and barriers to entry are high or insurmountable. It has reliable, regulated revenues and can therefore borrow cheaply. Its handsome 4.8% yield is covered 1.5 times, which should be solid enough. Dividend growth is likely to be slow, but the recent share price dip looks like a buying opportunity for long-term income seekers.
The feeling is Old Mutual
South Africa-focused insurer Old Mutual(LSE: OML) is another steady dividend stock, but its current yield of 4.67% has a sting in the tail. Profits have been hit by currency and stock market fluctuations, and the outlook is further complicated by plans to split the business into four different entities. Although that has now been reduced to three, as it is set to delay listing its UK wealth management unit due to the mounting costs of upgrading its investment platform. It may simply be sold off instead.
Adjusted pre-tax profit slumped 22% between January and June, to £708m, amid uncertainty in its three largest markets of South Africa, UK and US. Alarmingly, the dividend is now forecast to fall to 3.4%, following a 9% dip in EPS across 2016. Trading at 9.9 times earning this could be a buying opportunity, but there are safer income sources out there today, including Aviva and National Grid.
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Harvey Jones doesn't own any of the stocks mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.