3 Dividend Stocks to Buy in November

My dream investment is a high-yield stock with a fast-growing dividend. But such combinations are rare. This is because most companies that pay a fat dividend have matured out of their high-growth phase and compensate investors for slower growth by distributing more of their cash as dividends. If you look hard, however, you can still find a few rare gems that offer generous yields and rising dividends.

Consider, for example, if you had purchased the S&P 500 ETF (NYSE: SPY) at year-end 1998 and sold at year-end 2010. Your purchase price would have been $123.31, and your selling would have been $125.75 — a gain of just 2%. Add dividends to the equation, however, and the picture becomes much rosier. During the holding period, you would have collected a hefty $20.53 per share in dividends, which increases your return to 18.6%.

Here are three high-yielders that have recently hiked their dividends in a big way. If any of these entice you, I should note that you should consider buying soon in order to take advantage of their higher dividend payouts in December.

Let’s take a look…

1. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT)
Yield: 5%   
Dividend hike: 33%

Lockheed is the world’s largest pure-play defense contractor, deriving 60% of its revenue from Department of Defense contracts. The company supplies combat aircraft to the U.S. Air Force and is the prime contractor for F-16 and F-22 fighter jets.

Lockheed raised its dividend 33% in September to a $4.00 annualized rate, good for a  5.4% yield at recent prices. The new dividend is payable Dec. 30 to holders of record as of Dec.1. This was the ninth-consecutive annual dividend increase of at least 10%. And if a 33% dividend increase isn’t enough to impress you, Lockheed also authorized an additional $2.5 billion in share repurchases to enhance future earnings growth. According to the CEO, Lockheed is committed to returning at least 50% of its free cash flow to investors.

Lockheed’s earnings from continuing operations jumped 10% year-over-year in the first nine months of 2011, to $2 billion from $1.8 billion a year earlier. Earnings per share (EPS) improved 18% to $5.72 from $4.84 a year earlier. Lockheed’s nine-month cash flow of $3 billion easily covered $770 million in dividend payments, and the company has cash on the balance sheet totaling $4.6 billion or more than $14 per share.

Analysts expect Lockheed to grow earnings 10% a year for the next five years. An aging Air Force fleet (the average age of its aircraft is 24+ years) is creating big sales opportunities, and should help make Lockheed’s goals attainable. The Air Force plans to replace aging aircraft with Lockheed’s fifth-generation fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. International allies such as Israel, Canada and Turkey are also lining up with orders. Altogether, 3,100 F-35s are expected to be sold through 2035.

2. Marathon Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: MPC)
Yield: 3%   
Dividend hike: 25%

Marathon is America’s fifth-largest fuel refiner. This refiner/marketer owns assets in the Midwest, Gulf Coast and Southeast, and sells gasoline through its own Marathon-branded retail outlets and through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Speedway, which is the nation’s fourth-largest gas station/convenience store chain. The company was spun off from its parent company, Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO), in July. 

Marathon enjoys better-than-average refining margins because of its ability to process heavy crude, which comprises 50% of its feedstock. The company’s competitive advantage increases next year when Marathon will complete an upgrade to its Detroit refinery, which will add 80,000 barrels a day to heavy-oil processing capacity. Marathon’s third-quarter earnings of $1.13 billion, or $3.16 per share, were more than quadruple last year’s third-quarter results of $277 million, or $0.77 per diluted share.

Marathon has nearly $3 billion of cash, an unused $2 billion revolving credit facility and debt of $3.3 billion, representing just 36% of equity. Marathon hiked its dividend 25% in October, to a $1.00 annual rate, giving the stock a yield near 3%. The increased dividend will be payable on Dec. 12 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 16.

3. Macerich Co. (NYSE: MAC)
Yield: 4%   
Dividend hike: 10%

This retail REIT (real estate investment trust) owns 71 regional shopping centers across the United States, and is benefiting from the favorable demographics of its property portfolio. The markets where Macerich malls are located boast average household incomes of $77,000 a year and populations that are expected to rise 6% by 2015.

Macerich recently recorded its seventh consecutive quarter of same-center income growth. In this year’s September quarter, annual sales per square feet of leased space improved 10% to $467 compared with $426 last year. Funds from operations (FFO) per share, a REIT cash flow metric, grew 14% year-over-year to $0.75 from $0.66. FFO totaling $244.6 million for the first nine months of 2011 readily covered $217.6 million in dividend payments.Analysts look for Macerich to deliver 8% yearly earnings growth in the next five years.

Thanks to these healthy numbers, Macerich hiked its annual dividend 10% in October to a $2.20 rate, which increased the yield to 4.4%. The new $0.55 quarterly dividend is payable Dec. 8 to stockholders of record on Nov. 11.

Risk to consider: More defense spending cuts could hurt Lockheed and Marathon, and Macerich could face risk exposure to a possible double-dip recession and reduced consumer spending.

Action to take –>
My top pick overall is Lockheed because of its rich yield and a big dividend increase that signals management’s confidence in the future. Marathon is a good choice for dividend growth investors, while pure income investors should like Macerich for its yield.