It’s the most popular high-yield stock owned by Congress.
And they might be on to something. Right now this stock yields 5.3%… and it’s one of the most stable dividend-payers in America. During the recession, dividends stayed steady. And in the past five years investors have enjoyed five annual dividend increases.
At last count, 52 members of Congress — 19 Democrats and 33 Republicans — owned shares of this company.
I’ll tell you more about the stock in a moment. But first, I think you should understand why it’s important to know that Congress owns the stock at all…
A few years back, “60 Minutes” finally blew the lid off the entire thing.
To make a long story short, insider trading was legal for members of Congress and many of their high-ranking aides for years. They could trade based on the information they encountered in their day-to-day work, even it if it was non-public information.
We had been telling readers about this for months before Congress finally changed the rules. In fact, we even put out a special report — Congress’ Dirty Secret — that outlined the problem and also showed people how to find out what their Congressman owned with a few clicks of a mouse.
But there’s no illusion here. We could scream about the problem until we’re blue in the face. However, when “60 Minutes” — one of the most-respected investigative journalism programs on television — dedicates a segment to the issue, the nation pays attention.
And we were happy to see all that attention lead to a change with the passage of the STOCK Act. There’s no doubt that this was a problem. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, 247 of the 535 members of Congress are millionaires. That’s 48%! In other words, being a millionaire makes you “average” in Congress.
Meanwhile, according to a Barron’s story, members of Congress outperform your typical investor by an extra 6.8 percentage points each year.
Knowing all that, you would think looking at the most popular stocks in Congress would shed light on some super secret investing strategy that would produce better returns than everyone else. After all, they could make trades based on insider information.
But according to Factset, a research firm specializing in money in politics, the most popular dividend stock owned by Congress is one of the best known companies in the world. And though the rules have changed to disallow Congress from making investments from insider information, the most recent data available is from 2011, before the STOCK Act passed.
And let me be clear. We’re not suggesting that Congress had inside information on AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) — the high-yielding stock that’s owned by more than 50 members of Congress (that makes it the most popular income stock owned by our representatives).
However, when dozens of millionaires with a history of beating average investors year after year own a particular stock, we think it’s smart to pay attention.
Obviously, AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) won’t make you a millionaire overnight, but it is one of the most stable businesses in America. The shares fell with the broader market during the recession, but the underlying business kept steadily making money.
Today the company takes in about $127 billion in revenue each year and has about $4.5 billion in cash sitting in the bank. AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) returns roughly $10 billion annually to investors in the form of dividends. And those payments have increased every year going all the way back to the 1980s.