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5 Dividend-Paying Stocks for the Long Haul: Cohen

Monday, 30 Jan 2012 | 1:33 PM ET

The best investment strategy right now is to buy high-quality stocks that pay dividends and stay invested long-term to reap the benefits of compounding, Harry “Hersh” Cohen, senior portfolio manager of Clearbridge Advisors, told CNBC Monday.

Cohen, overseeing about $8 billion at Clearbridge, is often asked for advice from clients: “Two years ago, every call I was getting was from people saying I have a [Certificate of Deposit] expiring, or a Treasury bill; but where can I get higher returns with no risk? You can't, I would tell them. There is no such place.”

Since then, Cohen has changed his tune.



“High quality stocks started to offer dividend yields higher than they had been in years, higher than in bonds,” he said. “So, it seemed to be the place to go.”

Skeptics hear the “dividend play,” and argue that the trade is overcrowded, which lowers the overall return. Cohen counters, saying investors can ignore the crowds if they're in it for the long haul.

Investing in High Quality Stocks
High quality common stocks where the dividends are higher up front than they have been in years and it seems to be the place to go, says Hersh Cohen, ClearBridge Advisors chief investment officer/senior portfolio manager. Cohen weighs in on Fed chief Bernanke's efforts to reflate the economy.

He adds that now couldn't be a better time to following the strategy, with the Federal Reserveannouncing that interest rates are likely to remain near record lows for the next several years.

“(Fed Chairman Ben) Bernanke is definitely forcing people out of the risk curve,” said Cohen. “He's trying his best to re-flate the economy.”

Cohen highlights the Fed's actions, because if they boost economic growth, it follows that companies' stock prices, and their ability to pay dividends, also get a lift.

Clearbridge's top five equity holdings include Exxon Mobil, Procter & Gamble, Waste Management, Microsoft , and Kimberly-Clark.


“If you're thinking about the next three months? Who knows. But if you're thinking about the next five, 10, 20 years, I can tell you from experience that stocks actually work and dividends actually work,” Cohen said.

Over the long term, high-quality stocks reap the benefits of compounding — generating earnings from re-invested, previous earnings.

“There are so many great companies that do all the right things for shareholders,” he said. “It's not a new idea, but I think people would benefit from focussing on it.”

Additional News: Tonen Buys 99% of Exxon Mobil's Stake
Additional Views: Stocks Are Cheap, Go for Dividends

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CNBC Data Pages:

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Disclosures:

Hersch Cohen owns stock in Exxon Mobil, Procter & Gamble, Waste Management, Microsoft, and Kimberly-Clark, through Clearbridge Advisors' managed account, called the “dividend strategy” portfollio.

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