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Do High Dividend Stocks Offer Advantages When Rates Rise?

October 3, 2017

rsz_istock-586734424.jpgInvesting in high dividend stocks may offer a way to get exposure to equity markets while also generating an income stream. However, not all dividend-paying stocks are created equal when it comes to being a source of income and/or lower volatility.


For stocks, it matters why rates rise

First, there could be any of several different reasons why rates might rise, as we discussed in a recent post. Some of these scenarios are better for investors than others. Dictated by simple arithmetic, prices of most bonds fall when interest rates rise, regardless of the reasons why. However, rising rates may affect some equities differently. First, consider why rates are rising to determine the answer, as the reasons for rising rates matter to equity investors. Rates may rise because:

  • The economy is growing and there is more demand for credit. This is the best scenario for equity investors generally.
  • Inflation is increasing toward, or perhaps even above, investors’ expectations and/or the Fed’s 2% target. This is less beneficial, as it means companies’ revenues and expenses might both be increasing. But this environment may also allow companies to increase their dividends.
  • The Fed may continue to raise rates in advance of a projected increase in inflation, or perhaps a desire to head off speculation in the financial markets. This factor is more ambiguous, but a Fed that feels more comfortable with higher rates may inspire confidence on the part of investors.

Some dividend-paying sectors are better than others

Not all high dividend stocks are created equal, especially when it comes to their sensitivity to interest rate risk. One primary issue is that some stocks that are bought primarily for their dividend yields (think utilities and REITs, as but two examples) can also exhibit some correlation to bond markets. In other words, when interest rates rise, these equities that are viewed as bond substitutes can see their prices pressured along with bonds, whose prices fall when interest rates rise.

Better to invest in stocks that can do well in the types of economic conditions that happen to favor both economic growth and rising interest rates. Indeed, a growing economy is also often consistent with a rising rate environment.

As such, investors may consider dividend-paying stocks that have more of a correlation to equity markets than to bond markets; that is, they have some sensitivity to economic growth. These may include dividend stalwarts in sectors such as telecoms, energy, and financials, along with industrials and consumer stocks, among others.

  • Shares in financials may even tend to benefit when interest rates rise, as higher rates make lending more profitable for banks or reduce the value of liabilities for insurance companies.
  • Telecoms also have some correlation to economic growth, which may coincide with periods of rising interest rates, and some of these companies have higher dividend payout rates.
  • Meanwhile, energy companies can benefit from rising oil prices, offering some protection to what might otherwise be bond-crushing inflation pressures.
  • Industrial and consumer companies may be able to raise prices faster than their labor and other input costs in a growing economy, and pass along some of those profits to shareholders.

Upsides and downsides of high dividend paying stocks in a rising rate environment

A possible upside might be a potential hedge against unexpected inflation. Aside from TIPS and some floating rate fixed income instruments, most bonds usually offer no such protection for inflation. However, the stock of a company whose earnings may increase with inflation – thus possibly paying higher dividends over time – may offer one potential inflation hedge. Thus, dividend paying stocks may offer a useful complement to other yield-oriented instruments for an investor who is withdrawing income.

 A downside could be the degree to which a given stock is bought primarily for its dividend. Perhaps paradoxically, the more investors favor a particular investment primarily for its yield the more vulnerable it can be to losses during a rising interest rate environment. Since bonds can be a suitable investment alternative, some of these sectors can be vulnerable to rising rates like bonds are.

Thus, certain sectors renowned for their yield, including REITs and utilities (not to mention preferred stocks), might have more sensitivities to rising rates. These sectors tend to have a bit more correlation to fixed income markets than other equity sectors.

That means that some dividend-heavy securities could see a price hit if interest rates rise, just like most bond prices would. Why would these stocks suffer along with bond prices during a rising rate environment? As bond yields rise, that siphons off funds from equity investments, if investors believe bonds now offer a sufficiently attractive yield at a perceived lower level of volatility.


As such, what is always paramount is that yield is only one consideration to an investment. When buying a stock, it should be of a company with sound fundamentals, one you might own regardless of its dividend. Thorough analysis includes myriad variables, and a high yield does not necessarily mitigate risk. Instead, it sometimes may merely change the types of risk to which you’re exposed. And of course, consider your own personal circumstances: what is right for you may be different than what’s right for your neighbor. That’s why your United Capital financial adviser is always available to help you find your own personal solution to your financial life management.

Disclosure: Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal, and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. The information contained in this piece is intended for information only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered investment advice. Please contact your financial adviser with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information and opinions expressed herein are obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital. Opinions expressed are current as of the date of this publication and are subject to change. Certain statements contained within are forward-looking statements including, but not limited to, predictions or indications of future events, trends, plans or objectives. Undue reliance should not be placed on such statements because, by their nature, they are subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Indices are unmanaged, do not consider the effect of transaction costs or fees, do not represent an actual account and cannot be invested to directly. Equity investing involves risk, including that of loss of principal, price fluctuations from company-specific or market risk factors, and a reduction in any dividend payments. International investing entails special risk considerations, including currency fluctuations, lower liquidity, economic and political risks, and different accounting methodologies.

United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC (United Capital) provides financial guidance and makes recommendations based on the specific needs and circumstances of each client. For clients with managed accounts, United Capital has discretionary authority over investment decisions. Investing involves risk and clients should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. The information contained in this blog is intended for information only, is not a recommendation, and should not be considered investment advice. Please contact your financial adviser with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. This blog is a sponsored blog created or supported by United Capital and its employees, organization or group of organizations. This blog does not accept any form of advertising, sponsorship, or paid insertions. Certain authors of our blog posts may be influenced by their background, occupation, religion, political affiliation or experience. It is important to note that the views and opinions expressed on this blog are that of the owner, and not necessarily United Capital Financial Advisers. As a Registered Investment Adviser, United Capital does not allow any testimonials on their blog, and any comments deemed as such United Capital will remove.

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Gene Balas

Written by Gene Balas

Gene is a portfolio manager in United Capital's Investment Management Department. Gene began his career in 1989 and is a Chartered Financial Analyst with an MBA from Columbia University. His passion outside of work is weightlifting.

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