From the end of March through the end of August, stocks had a tremendous runup to record high levels. The gains completely wiped out the losses from the mid-winter ‘coronavirus collapse,’ and it looked like we were in for a sustained run of good days. But all of that changed as September rang in. The market hit a bump, and has been undergoing a correction. The Nasdaq is down nearly 7%, and volatility has been high so far this month.
A new report from Canaccord’s Tony Dwyer puts the situation into perspective by pointing out the major source of uncertainty: “In a true statement of the obvious,” he writes, “this is the most complicated election-year setup we could possibly have.” He goes on to note the four most important ‘unknown’ factors: how the voting will actually happen this year, and avoiding vote fraud; who will win the White House; if the Democrats will sweep the Federal level elections; and, if the loser will concede the contest without a dragged-out legal battle. These are points giving investors ulcers at night.
Dwyer balances all of that with the predictable factor: “Unlike the political backdrop, which is totally unpredictable, we know the Fed intends to keep rates at zero and to keep intervening when there are any signs of stress.” An active central bank will continue injecting liquidity into the system, which will be bullish for stocks. In Dwyer’s view, the only question is, what tools will the Fed use?
So, in a situation that recalls Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘unknown unknowns,’ many investors are gravitating toward defensive stocks, taking steps to ensure a steady income stream. And this brings them, quite naturally, to dividend stocks. These traditional defensive plays may not offer the high share appreciation that is so attractive in normal times, but their high-yielding dividends make up for that when things turn sideways.
With this in mind, analysts from JMP Securities have tapped three such defensive stocks, with dividend yields range from 8.5% to more than 12%. We’ve run the three through the TipRanks database to find out what makes them so compelling. Here are the results.
BlackRock TCP Capital (TCPC)
The first stock on our list is a financial company. BlackRock TCP Capital is a specialty finance company with a clear focus on mid-market lending. Since 1999, BlackRock has worked on originating and investing in debt securities, and has made a total of $20.1 billion in financing loans to more than 500 companies over the years. A plurality (over 34%) of the company’s investments are in the software and financial services fields, but BlackRock’s portfolio, current valued at $1.6 billion, spans a diverse field of targets.
The company’s investments are profitable; as of the end of Q2 this year, the average annual return was 9.8%. That income provides earnings that regularly beat the forecasts. As the recessionary pressures began to ease, Q2 earnings came in at 36 cents per share, or 20% higher than expected.
BlackRock uses these earnings to fund its dividend, which has been paid out regularly for more than 3 years. In a nod to the coronavirus crisis, the payment was cut from 36 cents to 30 cents – but at that level, BlackRock returns almost all of its earnings to company shareholders. The dividend yield is 12.1%, more than 6x higher than the average yield found among S&P listed companies – and more than 12x higher than the yield on US Treasury bonds in these days of near-zero interest rates.
JMP analyst Christopher York is cautiously bullish on TCPC, and one of the reasons he cites is the company’s solid cash position.
“The company has cash of ~$20.6mln and ~$328mln in availability on revolvers, which is more than enough to support any draw of unfunded commitments of $46.0mln. We think the liquidity at the company is very strong and think the resources at the advisor are superior to many BDCs, which we expect to lead to good longer-term restructuring and recovery outcomes,” York noted.
York rates this stock an Outperform (i.e. Buy) and his $11 price target implies room for 13% share price growth in the coming year. (To watch York’s track record, click here)
Overall, the analyst consensus rating here is a Moderate Buy, based on 3 Buys and 2 Holds. Shares are selling for $9.76 and the average price target matches York’s, at $11. (See BlackRock stock analysis on TipRanks)
PennyMac Mortgage (PMT)
Next up is another financial stock, PennyMac Mortgage. This company is a mortgage investment trust, a sub-niche of the real estate investment trust industry that provides somewhat more liquidity by investing primarily in mortgage backed securities rather than directly in real properties.
During the corona crisis of 1H20, PMT saw earnings turn negative in Q1 and return to positive territory in Q2. The numbers were -$5.99 EPS in the first quarter, and $4.51 in the second. Revenues followed a similar pattern, with the Q2 top line hitting $475 million.
The company adjusted its mortgage payments in the first half to account for the earnings volatility. PMT paid out 25 cents per common share in Q1, just slightly more than half of the long-held dividend of 47 cents. In Q2, management started raising the dividend, and paid out 40 cents per common share, which gives a yield 9.1%.
Trevor Cranston wrote the review of this stock for JMP, and sees the company with a path forward as the pandemic effects wane.
“[Our] outlook on MSRs has improved somewhat in the past few months as the expected negative COVID-19-related impact has subsided, and we continue to believe strength in the correspondent lending business is likely to more than offset any weakness in MSR results due to strong tailwinds for origination volumes, even as conventional margins have returned to more normalized levels,” Cranston opined. “As a result, believe PMT shares should trade at a premium to the hybrid REIT peer group as many peers sold significant volumes of credit assets in late 1Q and early 2Q, resulting in less book value recovery potential.”
Along with these comments, he gives the stock a $19 price target, implying room for 9% upside growth. Cranston’s rating on the stock is Outperform, (i.e. Buy). (To watch Cranston’s track record, click here)
Overall, PMT holds a Moderate Buy analyst consensus rating based on 5 recent Buys and 2 Holds. The stock has an average price target of $19.40, slightly higher than Cranston’s, and indicative of a 11% upside potential. (See PMT stock analysis on TipRanks)
Oaktree Specialty Lending (OCSL)
Last up on this list, Oaktree, is another specialty finance company. Oaktree provides loans and credit access for small- to mid-size companies that cannot gain entry to traditional sources of capital. Oaktree’s portfolio is modestly diverse, with $1.4 billion invested in 128 companies. Most of this is first lien debt, 62%, while some 20% is made up of second lien.
Oaktree reported last month on its FYQ3 results, and the results were solid. EPS came in at 12 cents, against a forecast of 11 cents, for a 9% beat. Revenue for the fiscal third quarter was $34.4 million, even with forecast and down slightly yoy.
The earnings results suggest that the company is emerging from the corona crises intact, a thesis supported by management’s decision to raise the quarterly dividend. They have not raised the payout since mid-2018, when it was set at 10 cents per common share. The new dividend payment is 10% higher, at 11 cents, but while the numbers seem small, the yield is an impressive 8.5%.
Turning back to Christopher York, we find that the JPM analyst has set a $6 price target on OCSL, suggesting his belief in a 24% potential for the stock.
Backing his stance, York writes, “We think the combination of stability in portfolio performance in 2Q20, along with growth in the investment portfolio at wider spreads gave the board the necessary boost to finally increase the dividend with improved visibility in recurring core earnings. Going forward, we believe there are a couple levers available for OCSL to expand earnings and ROE, so we think another dividend increase in F2021 is possible.”
Of the three stocks on this list, Oaktree is the one with a Strong Buy analyst consensus rating – and it is unanimous. The stock has received 5 Buy reviews in recent weeks. The shares are priced at $4.83, and the $5.60 average price target implies an upside potential of 16% for the coming 12 months. (See OCSL stock analysis on TipRanks)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.