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Qualcomm, Foot Locker offer dividend appeal

John Dorfman
| Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

Many people labor under the delusion that dividends are no longer important.

That's simply wrong. Over the past 20 years, dividends — and the reinvestment of those dividends — accounted for 32 percent of the total return from stocks. And this in a time when many investors scorned dividends as obsolete! Over the previous 60 years (Sept. 30, 1937, through Sept. 30, 1997), dividends directly and indirectly accounted for well over half of stocks' total return.

Rising dividends not only put money in your pocket. They also testify that management believes a company's prospects for growth are sustainable. They are a sincerity barometer that tells you management is putting money where their mouth is.

For a stock to have dividend appeal to me, it should display both an above-average yield and a rising dividend. Here are five stocks that I believe have dividend appeal.

Qualcomm

Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), formerly a high flier, develops communications technology and licenses it to the makers of smartphones and other users. In the 10 years through 2005, it provided its investors with a 32 percent annual return, but it has fallen on tougher times.

As a mature, slower-growing company, it sells for a more modest valuation than in its heyday — 13 times earnings now versus 36 times earnings in 2005. It now pays a dividend your Aunt Martha would like, 57 cents per share per quarter, for a 4.3 percent dividend yield.

GameStop

The whole world believes that GameStop Corp. (GME) is washed up. The company sells new and used video games and game equipment; much of that is now available on the internet.

Well, maybe the store's days are numbered. But it may show decent results for longer than people think. Meanwhile, the stock sells for less than six times earnings, and offers a dividend yield of 7.6 percent.

GameStop's revenue hit a peak of $9.4 billion in fiscal 2016 (its fiscal years end in January). That dropped to $8.6 billion last fiscal year, but analysts think it will rebound to $8.8 billion this year.

Foot Locker

Foot Locker Inc. (FL) shares have fallen five months in a row, dropping from $77 at the end of April to below $35 now. I don't expect much positive action before year-end, because tax-loss selling will be heavy this year. (People want to lock in tax deductions now, figuring taxes may be lower next year.) Come the first quarter of 2018, I think Foot Locker shares will stage a vigorous rebound. Foot Locker's profit margin has actually been expanding, not shrinking, in recent years. Like all brick-and-mortar retailers, it faces internet competition, but I think it can hang in there and compete successfully.

Pier 1

Sixteen Wall Street analysts follow Pier 1 Imports Inc. and not a single one recommends it. Shares in the Fort Worth, Texas, importer of home furnishings and knickknacks hit $25 in late 2003, and approached that level in 2013 but fell short. Today, the stock languishes below $5.

A strong dollar helps importers. Unlike many of my peers, I expect the dollar to be strong in 2017-18. In addition, Pier 1 shares are so depressed that if anything goes right, it will be a pleasant surprise. I like the stock at eight times earnings and 0.2 times revenue, with a 6.8 percent dividend yield.

Stewart Information

Title insurers have been struggling in recent years. One reason is that during and after the financial crisis, people were moving less. I think that situation will gradually improve.

Although its earnings have been up and down in recent years, Stewart Information Services Inc. (STC) has steadily increased its dividend, from a nickel a quarter in 2010 to 30 cents a quarter recently. The yield is 3.2 percent.

Track record: This is the 18th column I've written about stocks with dividend appeal. One-year returns on the recommendations in the previous 17 columns have averaged 14.3 percent. That compares with 9.5 percent for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index over the same periods.

Of the 17 columns, 14 were profitable, but only 10 beat the S&P 500.

Bear in mind that my column recommendations are theoretical and don't reflect actual trades, trading costs or taxes. Their results shouldn't be confused with the performance of portfolios I manage for clients. And past performance doesn't predict future results.

Last year's recommendations returned 16.3 percent, normally a good year. But the index was up 21.8 percent from Oct. 11, 2016, through Oct. 6, 2017. MetLife Inc. (MET) scored a 29.7 percent return. My other four recommendations, though profitable, trailed the S&P.

Disclosure: I own Qualcomm, MetLife and Stewart Information Services for one or more of my clients, though not personally.

John Dorfman is chairman of Dorfman Value Investments LLC in Newton Upper Falls, Mass., and a syndicated columnist. His firm or clients may own or trade securities discussed in this column. He can be reached at jdorfman@dorfmanvalue.com.

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