Hungry for income? Sold-off REITS offer dividends

For investors looking for income, it’s increasingly hard to find. So we ran a quick screen to dig up some dividend-heavy real-estate investment trusts, known as REITs.

We came up with a sample list including VEREIT (VER), STAG Property (STAG), Realty Income (O), Apple Hospitality REIT (APLE), and Omega Healthcare Investors (OHI).

Many of these stocks have been beaten up, particularly as the retail sector is undergoing a radical shift with online shopping overtaking big-box, and with interest rates on the rise (that makes real estate loans more expensive).

This is just a starting point. But these include health care and hotel real estate trusts, shopping malls, industrial parks – you name it.

VEREIT owns and manages a portfolio of retail, restaurant, office, and industrial real estate, and the stock has gotten killed in the last 12 months, down from around $11 a share earlier this year to about $7.50 currently. The current dividend yield is over 7 percent (dividends equal income, remember).

Same with Realty Income; its shares dropped from a high of $72.30 last year to around $54. It offers a 4.6 percent dividend yield.

Long-term care REIT Omega Healthcare boasts a 7.6 percent dividend yield and has raised its dividend for 19 quarters in a row. STAG Industrial, a Boston industrial REIT, pays a 5.4 percent yield.

All of these are income possibilities – stress, just a possibility – and a way to find income, particularly when savings rates are puny and bonds aren’t helping much either.

It would make more sense that REITs wouldn’t perform well when interest rates are rising, but apparently they’ve been beaten up in advance of the Federal Reserve’s rate hikes. And right now, some of these REITs are returning double the S&P 500 dividend of 2.4 percent.

Fiduciary Rule. We checked in with Noreen Beaman, chief executive at Brinker Capital, to learn the latest on the fiduciary rule, delayed until June 10.

The Department of Labor postponed the fiduciary rule’s April implementation. The law requires all investment professionals to act in the best interests of their clients when managing retirement accounts (yes, there had to be a law). Currently, only investment advisers are held to a fiduciary standard, while brokers are held to a lower standard of care, called the suitability standard.

Beaman notes that most investment firms have already spent the money to comply even if the fiduciary rule is dead.

“For us, it doesn’t matter," said Beaman. "We spent a lot of money and time to comply. We’re prepared for it. We think in many cases, much of the rule makes sense, although parts should be reworked, and by the Securities and Exchange Commission, not the Department of Labor.” The SEC may normalize how investment advisers approach clients with assets other than retirement money.

“But at this point in time, a lot of companies made all the investments to implement the fiduciary rule."

As for the June 10 date, the Trump administration “will probably freeze [implementation], but it’s hard to take legislation off the table” once passed, she added.

On the current stock market's valuation: “It’s hard to tell what’s priced in because [the White House and Congress] haven’t even really started on tax reform. There needs to be movement on that in the next year. If there’s no reform, we’ll see a negative reaction. Earnings and quality of the earnings become more important. You only get so much upside on expectation.”

“When we look at the labor market, people are feeling better about the economy. An external shock hasn’t been priced in. Overnight news like Brexit or North Korea.”

On interest rates: “We’re on our way to an interest-rate normalization. It’s positive that the economy gets back to that, because otherwise there’s little opportunity for the Fed to make adjustments unless rates go back up. The average American saver likes to put money in the savings account. Having interest income is a positive. We serve financial advisers who work in insurance. They blend one of our funds alongside an annuity. But for a lot of annuities, the rates are kind of low, so it’s challenging.”

CFA Annual Conference. The 70th CFA Institute Annual Conference takes place May 21-24, Sunday through Wednesday, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Known as the “poor man’s MBA”, the CFA designation is considered one of the most difficult to achieve among finance types.

Featured speakers at the CFA confab will include John C. Bogle, founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Group; Carla Harris, a vice chair at Morgan Stanley; Robert J. Shiller, Yale professor of economics; Jeremy J. Siegel, professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; and Kathleen Gaffney,  lead portfolio manager for Eaton Vance’s multisector bond strategies.

Bogle will speak from 8:45-9:45 a.m. on Tuesday, May 23, and will sign books after his presentation. For more information, or to register, visit the CFA conference website (https://annual.cfainstitute.org) or call Peter Conners, executive director of the CFA Society Philadelphia at 215-320-4980.