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The One Bright Spot in Apple’s Latest Report Could Lead You to Riches

1 | By Michael A. Robinson

The late-April quarterly report from Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) was pretty brutal.

Apple missed analysts’ estimates on sales and earnings and posted its first quarterly decline in revenue since 2003. Predictably – and shortsightedly, as I’ll fill you in on in an upcoming report – Wall Street hit the panic button pushing the stock down by more than 6%.

But there was a very bright spot in Apple’s first-quarter report. And in all the hundreds of Schadenfreude-filled stories that I read following the report’s release, hardly any highlighted it.

Apple may be missing on analysts’ estimates – but it’s still producing massive amounts of profit… $10.52 billion, or $1.90 a share, in the quarter.

And with those piles of cash, Apple boosted its dividend by a stunning 10%. Not all the data is in yet, but I believe this will be one of the tech sector’s biggest dividend increases this quarter.

Finding good dividend stocks is the most stable way to make money in volatile markets like the one we’re seeing now. Stocks that pay a dividend allow you to earn steady, passive income – on top of any gains the stock provides.

Moreover, as Silicon Valley’s leaders like Apple  mature from fast-growing highflyers to cash-producing giants, they’ve taken to using those profits for share buybacks dividends.

While I still like Apple for the long haul (and for its dividend), there’s no reason to pick and choose among tech dividend stocks.

That’s because there’s a simple way to get in on just about all of Silicon Valley’s dividend payers.

And it’ll cost you less than dinner for two at Olive Garden…

How to Grab Tech’s Cash

A decade ago, high-yield tech stocks were rare. Back then, Silicon Valley preferred to plow cash back into research and the next rounds of growth.

But following the financial crisis, these firms found themselves awash in cash as businesses and consumers adopted a wide range of new technologies en masse.

In essence, that’s transformed tech’s biggest players from laggards to dividend leaders.

From 2009 through the end of 2014, the sector boosted payouts by an average 24% a year, according to FTPortfolios. That tops the next sector’s (financials) growth by a hefty seven percentage points.

In sheer dollar terms, Apple, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)  and Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) are among the largest 15 divided payers in the S&P 500. And smaller tech firms are following their lead.

Over the past 12 months, the tech firms in the S&P 500 paid out $59 billion in dividends.

Consider that tech firms in the S&P 500 held $580 billion in cash at the end of 2015. That means Silicon Valley firms are set to remain at the forefront of dividend stocks.

So are medical-tech leaders. FactSet says healthcare firms led all groups in dividend-per-share increases last year with a 14.5% boost.

It’s a double win for shareholders. With interest rates low, these shares beat what you can get from money-market accounts.

And they protect your portfolio from volatility. MFS Investment Management says dividend stocks are 70% less volatile than earnings over time.

Now, you could choose among the well-known tech dividend stocks – or you could make one pick and forget it.

One Way Into All of Silicon Valley’s Dividends

The First Trust NASDAQ Technology Dividend Index Fund (NYSE: TDIV) is a great way to play this trend with a single investment that offers broad diversification.

This exchange-traded fund (ETF) is entirely composed of technology and telecom firms. Specifically, semiconductor firms make up 27.6% of the fund, software firms 15.4%, and telecom 14%.

TDIV has more than $450 million in total net assets spread among a 94 top tech dividend payers. To be included, a stock must have a market cap of more than $500 million and have paid a dividend in the past 12 months.

The 30-day SEC yield of this ETF is currently listed at 2.66% and income is paid quarterly to shareholders. In addition, the expense ratio of TDIV is listed at a modest 0.5% annually, or $50 for every $10,000 invested.

As you’d expect, TDIV pays an annual dividend, currently 96 cents per share, with a 52-week yield of 3.04%. Plus, it has an expense ratio of just 0.5%, meaning you’ll pay just $5 in annual fees for every $1,000 you invest.

Plenty to Love

Of course, the company we led off today’s report with is in here.

Apple is TDIV’s No. 5 holding, accounting for 7.5% of the fund. In its first-quarter report, Team Tim Cook said it’s going to pay shareholders $250 billion in cash by March 2018. Apple is raising its quarterly dividend by 10% to 57 cents. (It’s also upping its buyback plan by 25% to $175 billion.)

Cisco and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and come in at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, and each makes up nearly 8% of the fund. At a weighting of 8.8%, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) ranks as TDIV’s largest holding.

Besides these mega-caps, TDIV also holds a number of smaller firms.

Let’s take a look…

  1. Western Digital Corp. (Nasdaq: WDC) makes up 0.95% of TDIV – and it’s one of the largest hard disk drive makers in the world. It’s also actively involved in personal cloud services, home entertainment products and business solutions. WDC just declared a cash dividend of 50 cents per share for the quarter endingJuly 1. That represents a $2 annualized dividend and a yield of 5.1%.
    A 2015 buyout of SanDisk Corp. (Nasdaq: SNDK), a maker of flash storage devices, fattened the company’s profits. That should help Western Digital to keep its foot on the gas. Shares of Western Digital are trading around $37, and the firm has a market cap of $8.81 billion.
  1. Tax and business software firm Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU) – 0.72% of the fund – is also emerging as a dividend powerhouse. The firm has boosted its payout an average 21% over the past three years to a current $1.20 a share.
    Consider that Intuit pays out less than 30% of its earnings to dividends, and you realize the firm can keep boosting its dividend at a double-digit pace for many years to come. Shares trade for $102, and the firm has a market value of $26.41 billion.
  1. Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), 3.95% of TDIV, is a leader in mobile chip tech. And it’s targeting the Internet of Everything (IoE), which is well on its way to becoming a $14.4 trillion My colleagues at Money Morning recently declared Qualcomm to be the best dividend-paying stock in the tech sector. The company boasts a 4.1% yield, and its annual dividend has increased 149% from 85 cents in 2011 to $2.12 this year. That’s more than double, for example, Intel’s $1.04 dividend.
    Qualcomm has total cash of $30 billion, which is bolstered each year by nearly $6 billion in adjusted earnings. Shares trade for around $51.25, and the firm has a market value of $76.36 billion.
  1. Garmin Ltd. (Nasdaq: GRMN) – 0.92% of the fund – is well known for its GPS And it has a strong presence in wearable tech. It offers many fitness and health wearables, the company’s fastest-growing segment. Garmin also sells other products like HD cameras.
    The company has a 5% yield, and its annual dividend is at $2.04 per share. Trading at $40.75, it has a $7.62 billion market cap.
  1. Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW) – which has a TDIV weighting of 1.3% – is one of the world’s top materials sciences firm. Its Gorilla Glass product is used for more than 3 billion devices, including the iPhone and more than 30 other major products.
    The company’s annual dividend is 56 cents, and it has a 2.9% yield. Its shares trade for $18.47, and it has a market value of $20.11 billion.

Growth, Stability and Value

TDIV trades at around $25, much cheaper than many of its holdings. That makes it a cost-effective play on tech dividend players – a core focus for more and more value investors.

With this fund, you get to invest in good, old American innovation, which continues to lead the rest of the world. And you get a nice, steady “paycheck” to do so.

Plus, you get “volatility insurance” – and that’s a “bright spot” we could all use this topsy-turvy year.

It’s truly an “invest-and-forget-it” profit producer.

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