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Play Defense With Dividends

Yes, the Dow jumped 262 points Thursday, but don’t get loose just yet. Times like these call for caution, Cramer said, for investors to be on the defensive. And there may be no better defense than a dividend. That’s why he recommended HCP today.

HCP’s the largest healthcare-focused real estate investment trust, and it pays out 5.8%. the good thing about this business is that HCP operates in areas that a recession most likely will never touch: senior living, medical office buildings, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and life sciences. Plus, today was the first good day in a long time Thursday, leading Cramer to say this could be the beginning of a REIT rally.

HCP has a few other checks in the “pros” column as well. The company’s reducing its exposure to Medicaid, meaning its less dependent on government payouts, and HCP’s selling off assets to pay down debt. That debt has gone from 62% of HCP’s equity in 2007 to 57%, and Cramer said the goal’s to get it down to 50%.

Oh, and that $1.83-a-share dividend? Totally sustainable, Cramer said, since HCP should earn $2.31 a share in 2008.

Safety’s a relative term on Wall Street – especially in this market – but the cushion HCP’s yield offers is definitely worth considering.

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