Looking for High Income? Look to Europe
If you want high and safe yields, you can’t afford to be parochial. Money travels around the clock in an interconnected, borderless world. Your search for robust income should include not just the United States but all regions of the globe.
Amid a jittery U.S. stock market, today’s new safe haven for high income is Europe — that’s right, Europe. Some of the best and most stable income possibilities right now are located across the pond. Below, I pinpoint three Europe-based, high-yield plays. Two are individual stocks and one is an exchange-traded fund (ETF).
When the U.S. Congress returns to work on September 5 after its month-long summer break, it will immediately become apparent that political risk is rising in the U.S. Lawmakers are poised to fight hammer-and-tongs over the debt ceiling, the fiscal budget, tax policy, and a lot more.
The current round of funding to operate the U.S. government runs out on September 30. Congress and the White House aren’t likely to have a fiscal budget in place by then, which will necessitate the raising of the debt ceiling so the government can pay its bills.
Unless Congress raises the debt ceiling, the government will go into default with dire consequences for financial markets. The world would probably move away from the greenback as a reserve currency and U.S. Treasury bonds as a safe haven.
Overhanging the fractious debate on Capitol Hill will be the massive remediation costs in Texas of Hurricane Harvey, with strengthening Hurricane Irma inching toward Florida. Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Sunday estimated damage from Hurricane Harvey at $150 billion to $180 billion. Renewed nuclear brinkmanship between the White House and North Korea, as well as President Trump’s worsening Russia scandal, round out the worrisome picture at home.
Europe: The New Safe Haven
Meanwhile, political risk is actually falling in Europe. I’ll show you how to profit from this remarkable turn of events, with a spotlight on three high income plays.
Investors in Europe are breathing a sigh of relief over the ebbing of far-right populism throughout the region. Accelerating economic growth in the euro zone fueled by stabilizing government policies has made the Continent an attractive but underappreciated refuge for nervous investors.
European Central Bank policymakers are scheduled to meet on September 7, with expectations that they will delay any further monetary tightening.
Gross domestic product growth in the euro zone in the second quarter increased 2.20% on a year-over-year basis, exceeding analyst expectations. A similar trajectory is expected for the rest of the fiscal year.
The Continent’s blue-chip transnationals are flush with cash and boast rock solid balance sheets, while their customers feel wealthier and more confident. These three dividend-paying gems not only provide steady income but they’re also reasonably valued, which enhances their appeal in light of the U.S. market’s excessive valuations.
LyondellBasell Industries (NYSE: LYB)
Based in London, LyondellBasell makes chemicals and polymers, refines crude oil, produces gasoline blending components, and develops and licenses technologies for making polymers.
Chemicals are at the heart of organic processes and they’re also crucial to industrial systems. As the provider of fundamental materials for modern manufacturing, LyondellBasell is a textbook cyclical play on global economic recovery.
The chemical sector is positioned to outperform this year, fueled by accelerating growth in chemical-intensive industries such as automobile manufacturing and construction. Moreover, the low price of oil is dampening the cost of feedstocks needed to make chemicals, boosting the operating margins of companies such as LyondellBasell. U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude hovers below $50 per barrel, problematic for energy companies but manna for chemical producers.
Global recovery and lower costs are positioning the stocks of select chemical producers for outsized appreciation. Sweetening the picture is persistent middle-class demand for consumer chemicals in emerging nations, especially China. With a market cap of $35 billion, LyondellBasell has an entrenched footprint in rebounding overseas markets, particularly the Middle Kingdom.
LYB’s trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) is only 10, which is low compared to the average trailing P/Es of 22.6 for its industry and 21.9 for the S&P 500.
The average analyst expectation is for LYB’s year-over-year earnings growth to reach 6.0% next quarter and 6.80% this year. The dividend yield is 3.99% and the payout ratio is a manageable 38.21%. Over the past five years, LyondellBasell has racked up a stellar dividend growth rate of 39%.
Daimler AG (OTC: DDAIF)
This maker of the iconic Mercedes-Benz luxury line of cars also is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles. Daimler’s automotive products are among the most respected and coveted brand names on the planet. As U.S.-based stocks appear poised for a correction, Daimler enjoys several tailwinds.
With a market cap of $77.6 billion, Daimler has stolen market share from rival Volkswagen (OTC: VLKAY) because of the latter’s embarrassing and costly emissions cheating scandal. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, Daimler recently announced that it intends to re-enter Iran, to meet the huge demand for commercial vehicles in that huge market, now that nuclear sanctions have been lifted on Islamic state.
Sales of autos are picking up across the Continent and investors are sanguine about the growth prospects of Germany, which remains Europe’s largest economy. Another positive for German-based firms is the growing political strength of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a staunch globalist and favorite of European corporate leaders.
When Merkel visited the White House back in March, President Trump refused to shake her hand. However, her alienation from the “America First” president actually boosts her standing with German voters. Merkel is ahead in the polls for the September 24 general elections, which pleases Europe’s corporate C-Suite. Germany is the growth engine of Europe and for investors in that region, Merkel equals stability.
Daimler’s trailing P/E is only 6.7, which is low compared to the average trailing P/E of 11.5 for its industry. The average analyst expectation is for Daimler’s year-over-year earnings growth to reach 11.30% next quarter and 14.30% this year. The dividend yield is 4.72% and the payout ratio is a reassuring 35%. Daimler has generated a five-year dividend growth rate of 9.50%.
Shelton European Growth & Income Direct (NSDQ: EUGIX)
With net assets of $11.37 million, EUGIX seeks long-term capital appreciation and income by investing in large-cap companies based in Europe. Management uses the Dow Jones European STOXX 50 Index as a target portfolio.
EUGIX’s top five holdings are a who’s who of global, well-known European behemoths: Nestle (OTC: NSRGY), at 5.77%; Novartis (NYSE: NVS), at 5.26%; Bayer (OTC: BAYRY), at 4.71%; AXA (OTC: AXAHY), at 4.61%; and Siemens (OTC: SIEGY), at 4.55%. The fund’s portfolio is chock full of proven dividend-paying stocks with robust cash flows, reasonable payout ratios and powerful earnings growth momentum.
Shelton European Growth & Income Direct has racked up a total return of 17.89% year to date, 19.38% over the past year, 1.76% over the past three years, and 8.29% over the past five years. The fund’s expense ratio is 1.00%, compared to 1.36% for its industry. The yield is 2.35%.
The geopolitical tables have turned. If you’re hungry for safe income, it’s time to give Fortress Europe a try.