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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Are Preferred Share ETFs Right for You?

For an investor who seeks income streams, there are a variety of avenues when it comes to exchange traded funds (ETFs). One such way is through preferred shares, or better yet, preferred share ETFs.

Why would preferred shares being appealing?

  • Right now, several preferred share ETFs are yielding around 8% or more.
  • Preferred shares have guaranteed priority over common shares when it comes to dividend payments and a higher claim on the assets of a company in the event of bankruptcy, says Shefali Anand for The Wall Street Journal.
  • They provide income and serve to lower portfolio risk, making them especially appealing in turbulent times.

Preferred stock is basically senior equity. In exchange for a limited claim on the company’s assets and future growth, preferred shares are entitled to a dividend preference and fixed rate of dividends. Before any dividends can be paid on the common shares, all dividends owed to the preferred stock classes must be satisfied. Owners of preferred shares also give up their voting rights.

Preferred shares lost a chunk of value since late last year, sending yields up to 20% and 30% in February and March. Now that investors are feeling more optimistic, the yields have come back down.

  • iShares S&P U.S. Preferred Stock Index (PFF): up 27.7% year-to-date; 8.83% yield
  • PowerShares Preferred (PGX): up 10.3% year-to-date; 9.79% yield

For more stories about ETFs, visit our ETF category.

Disclosure I am long PFF anf PGX shares., Inc.

Procter & Gamble to Sell Drug Divison to Warner Chilcott

Procter & Gamble (PG-Quote) announced that it plans to sell its prescription drug division to Warner Chilcott (WCRX-Quote) on Monday, in a deal that will be worth $3.1 billion.

The move is in line with Procter & Gamble’s desire to shed non-core businesses that have experienced slower-than-average growth in recent years.

The deal marks a milestone for P&G’s new chief executive, Bob McDonald, who moved into his current position in July.

"We know that our shareholders don't reward us for size. They reward us for growth," said McDonald on a conference call. "We are going to do what we have to do to get the right portfolio of businesses together. We are focused on growth."

The sale is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Disclosure I am long PG shares.

3balls Golf Bargain Basement

Pimco launches first TIPS ETF

The world's biggest bond-fund manager on Monday launched the first of a new line of exchange-traded funds that focus on inflation protection. The Pimco 1-5 Year U.S. TIPS Index Fund (STPZ) is the first of three planned Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities ETFs from the firm, a unit of Allianz (AZ) . The two other ETFs, Pimco 15+ Year U.S. TIPS Index Fund and Pimco Broad U.S. TIPS Index Fund, will launch in early September.

Disclosure NONE

CenturyLink (CTL) Declares Quarterly Cash Dividend of $.70

CenturyLink (CenturyTel, Inc.) (NYSE: CTL - News) today announced that its Board of Directors voted to declare a quarterly cash dividend of $.70 per share, payable on September 21, 2009, to shareholders of record on September 8, 2009.

CenturyLink is a leading provider of high-quality voice, broadband and video services over its advanced communications networks to consumers and businesses in 33 states. CenturyLink, headquartered in Monroe, La., is an S&P 500 Company and expects to be listed in the Fortune 500 list of America's largest corporations. For more information on CenturyLink, visit

Disclosure I am long CTL shares

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pocketing Nice Dividends with Hot Small-Caps

If you’ve unfamiliar with my prior columns, you might not know that I focus primarily in the small-cap space – both in my specialist areas of healthcare and biotech and other sectors, too.

Typically, small-cap stocks purchased for capital appreciation and big gains more so than they are sought for dividends income.

But I’m actually a big fan of dividends, and the stability of the income they bring as well.

So is there a way to keep an eye on growth and earn solid, steady income at the same time? Usually, the two don’t go hand-in-hand – especially not in the small-cap sector.

But that doesn’t mean to say that it’s impossible to grab the best of both worlds.

There is a way to load your portfolio with outstanding profit potential and generate income too. Here’s how I found them, and three stocks that are perfectly suited to do the job.

Digging For Dividends

I’m not a market timer so I’m not going to tell you that now is the time to get out of equities before the market turns lower.

But what I will say is that with the Nasdaq and Russell 2000 (small-cap) indexes having blasted off their lows by 58% and 67% respectively, it makes sense to get a bit more defensive.

The reason is two-fold – and very simple: Owning dividend-paying stocks generates income and improves a portfolio’s return over the long-term.

However, it’s hard to find good small-cap companies that pay dividends. Smaller companies usually pour any excess cash back into the business to help it grow, rather than distributing it back to shareholders.

In fact, of more than 7,400 stocks with market caps under $1 billion, only 1,356 pay dividends. And if you want a meaningful dividend yield – let’s say 3% – the number decreases to less than 800.

I further whittled down the list to companies with high current ratios, low debt, and profit expectations to help ensure that dividends would continue to get paid.

I also stayed away from companies that paid a very high dividend. Companies with yields approaching 10% or higher may find those payouts unsustainable if business continues to be difficult.

Yes, if you want a higher potential reward, you do need to take on more risk. But buying stocks with sky-high dividends is riskier than those with solid but more sensible yields.

Here are three of the best from my small-cap dividend stock screen…

A Trio Of Small-Cap Dividend Stocks

  • WD-40 Company (Nasdaq: WDFC):

The company makes everyone’s favorite industrial lubricant – WD-40 – plus household cleaners and other products. Through the first nine months of its fiscal year, it generated $18 million in profits and boasts $36 million in cash versus $21 million in debt. Earnings per share are expected to grow 13% in fiscal 2010.

Current dividend yield: 3.4%

  • American Ecology Corporation (Nasdaq: ECOL):

The firm handles America’s hazardous waste. Not a great business if you’re the guy with the rubber gloves moving barrels of the stuff. But not bad if you’re an investor – particularly a new one, given that the shares have endured a beating over the past year. ECOL is profitable, has $24 million in cash and no debt. Over the first six months of 2009, it generated $17 million in cash from operations. So far it has paid out over $6 million in the form of dividends.

Current dividend yield: 4%

  • CDI Corporation (NYSE: CDI):

The company provides engineering and information technology staffing services. With so many businesses cutting jobs, it’s had a tough time over the past year. But it’s still profitable, with earnings per share expected to nearly double next year. It has $77 million in cash, no debt and generated $10 million in cash from operations.

Current dividend yield 3.6%.

If you have any small-caps paying dividends in your portfolio, use the “Comments” link below to let me know which ones are your favorites and I’ll run a follow-up column, featuring stocks sent in by readers. Be sure to tell me why you like the stocks, too.

Hoping your longs go up and your shorts go down.

Disclosure I am long ECOL shares.

Andy's Auto Sport

Getty Realty raises quarterly dividend to 47.5 cents

Real estate investment trust Getty Realty Corp. said Thursday its board raised its quarterly dividend to 47.5 cents per share.

The payout is up from its previous dividend of 47 cents per share.

The company dividend is payable on Oct. 8 to shareholders of record on Sept. 24.

Shares rose 66 cents, or 3 percent, to $22.54 in afternoon trading. They've traded between $13.25 and $23.12 in the past year.


Getty Realty Corp. operates as a real estate investment trust (REIT) in the United States. The company engages in the ownership and leasing of retail motor fuel and convenience store properties, and petroleum distribution terminals. The company's properties are leased or sublet to distributors and retailers engaged in the sale of gasoline and various motor fuel products, convenience store products, and automotive repair services. As of December 31, 2006, the company owned 836 properties and leased 216 additional properties in 13 states located principally in the northeast United States. Getty Realty Corp. elected to qualify as a REIT. As a REIT, the company would not be subject to federal income tax, provided it distributes at least 90% of its REIT taxable income to its shareholders. The company was founded in 1955 and is headquartered in Jericho, New York.

Disclosure I am long GTY shares.

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