Investors should look for stocks that are likely to increase their dividend rather than those with high yields, and some names stand out, according to David Cassese, portfolio manager at BlackRock's Equity Dividend Fund.
"The dividend-yield part of the market has gotten quite crowded—you see those multiples near all-time highs," he said. "People have been using those as a proxy for bonds. If you think rates are going up, they are just as much at risk as bonds are."
Instead, dividend growth stocks are much more attractive right now, Cassese said. He pointed out three elements that should encourage investors to move into the space: competitive yields of 2 percent to 4 percent; long-term growth appreciation; and lower volatility, which gives investors a "smoother ride" over the long term.
"Ultimately, dividend-paying stocks outperform the market overall, whether it's dividend yielders or dividend payers," he added. "People are underinvested in equities, whether that be the individual investor, pension funds, endowments or institutional investors. We really want to focus investors and focus our fund on the part of the market with dividend growth."
Cassese noted two stocks in particular that are good buys right now. In general, he's looking for stocks with good potential for revenue, earnings and cash-flow growth, with reinvestment opportunities.
Home Depot: With a yield around 2 percent, it has dominance over competitors and is well-positioned against online retailers, he said. The company will also be a prime beneficiary of a recovering housing market.
VF Corp: Cassese likes the stock for its portfolio of brands, including The North Face, Vans and Timberland. The company has "tremendous runway" for international growth, especially in Europe and Asia, he said.