High Dividend Stocks – Protecting Yields and Lowering Risk
With the recent rash of dividend cuts by historically dependable dividend-paying companies, income investors are finding it increasingly challenging to find safe high dividend yields. Indeed, Standard & Poor’s expects 2009 to have the biggest drop in dividend payouts since 1942. The market decline has created many accidentally high dividend weed news stocks, as companies who’ve maintained their dividend payouts in spite of share price declines suddenly find themselves paying out record high dividend yields. The other edge to this sword is that many companies are slashing their dividend payouts to conserve cash, reasoning that their lower payouts still offer a strong yield, given their lower share price.
In addition, the increased volatility associated with the market’s decline has devalued investors’ principal, leaving them with less capital to invest, if they choose to re-balance their portfolios.
A useful, conservative strategy that actually capitalizes on the market’s volatility to lock in high dividend yields is the Covered Call Selling or Buy/Write technique. The increased market volatility has increased call option premiums, giving investors the opportunity to sell high yield covered calls on many stocks, in effect giving them a one-time “double dividend”, reducing their initial investment cash outlay, and also offering them some downside protection. Since no company can cut the premium on their call options, these instruments are tantamount to an “ironclad” dividend. Indeed, the current call premiums are often giving investors higher yields than the underlying stock dividends. So, even if the company does cut its dividend, the investor will still retain the premium from his covered call sale. In addition, a call seller receives the call premium money back into his account upon settlement, (usually trade date plus 3 days).
Covered call writing also gives you the potential for capital gains, in addition to the high yields that you get from the call premium/dividend yield, should the stock be assigned, (sold), at expiration. Investors often sell covered calls that are approximately 5-20% above the stock’s current price, giving themselves the potential to realize an additional 5-20% profit, should these stocks rise past the covered call thresholds by the end of the investment term. Given the historic lows that many companies’ share prices have fallen to, many traditional value investors feel that they are buying these stocks at undervalued prices, and reason that there’s a very good chance of them rising in the future.
To illustrate this technique, let’s take a look at the prices for NYSE/Euronext (NYX), as of March 4, 2009 market close:
STOCK COST/ SHARE:$16.36 ANNUAL DIVIDEND:$1.20/SHARE DIVIDEND YIELD:7.33%
CALL STRIKE PRICE:$17.50 CALL PREMIUM:$3.25 STATIC CALL YIELD: 19.86%