Dividend Stocks to Suit All Appetites for Risk

Here are different lists of high-yielding stocks designed for different degrees of risk.

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The search for decent yet safe yields seems to have turned into a permanent investment goal. The Federal Reserve has repeatedly renewed its commitment to near-zero interest rates. Let's hope this turns out to be good news for the economy, because it has trashed the safest returns for retirement investments.

A pair of dice on a casino table
A pair of dice on a casino table

[Read: Is Your Dividend Safe?]

Advising older folks to not be too risky with their nest eggs is of limited help these days. Everyone takes on more investment risk when short-term yields are zero. And everyone, or so it seems, has been scouring the landscape for solid stocks with attractive dividends and dividend-based mutual funds.

For the past few years, U.S. News has worked with Standard & Poor's Capital IQ MarketScope Advisor to screen its database and develop lists of relatively safe stocks with attractive dividends.

Among the thousands of stocks tracked by S&P, only 96 now receive its highest 5-star rating. This "strong buy" rating means that S&P expects these stocks to outperform the market by a wide margin in the coming year. Here are the top 10 stocks with the highest dividend yields among this group, based on recent closing stock prices. Note that many companies are based outside the United States:

Windstream Corp.: 9.90 percent

Vivendi: 8.13 percent

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners: 5.70 percent

Vinci: 5.69 percent

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China: 5.52 percent

China Construction Bank: 5.45 percent

BMW: 5.04 percent

Centrica Plc: 4.87 percent

Enterprise Products Partners: 4.80 percent

Accor: 4.77 percent

Remember to do your homework. How long has a company been continuously paying dividends? How has its payout level changed in the past few years? If a company has only been paying a dividend for a year or two, is that enough of a track record?

[Read: 8 Top-Rated Income Funds.]

For comparison purposes, a year ago, these were the 10 best yields from among the 139 stocks that S&P then rated with 5 stars: Windstream Corp., with an 8.8 percent dividend yield; Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, 6.5 percent; AT&T, 6.3 percent; Altria Group, 6.2 percent; New York Community Bancorp, 6.1 percent; Home Properties, 4.7 percent; People's United Financial, 4.6 percent; Nokia Corp., 4.5 percent; Oneok, 4 percent; and Genuine Parts Co., 3.8 percent.

(U.S. News also published this 5-star S&P screen on 2010 as well: the top 10 dividend yields were Calumet Specialty Products Partners, 10.1 percent; Windstream, 10 percent; N.Y. Community Bancorp, 8.5 percent; Altria, 7.2 percent; Kinder Morgan, 7.2 percent; Home Properties, 6.1 percent; AT&T, 6 percent; Microchip Technologies, 5.1 percent; UDR Inc., 5 percent, and, Dominion Resources, 4.8 percent.)

To hone in on dividend "stars," we sliced the S&P data to identify slightly more than 200 stocks with five-year dividend growth rates exceeding 20 percent. Here are the 10 stocks from that list with the highest dividend yields:

Kumho Industrial Co. Ltd.: 56.2 percent

Cosco International Holdings Ltd.: 24.6 percent

Fondiaria - SAI SPA, Torino: 21.7 percent

PT AKR Corporindo Tbk: 19.4 percent

Antofagasta PLC: 16.9 percent

Anworth Mortgage Asset Corp.: 14.9 percent

Anhui Expressway Co. Ltd.: 14.7 percent.

Capstead Mortgage Corp.: 13.8 percent

Actividades De Construccion y Servi, S. A.: 13.4 percent

Shandong Chenmking Paper Holdings Ltd.: 13.2 percent

Taking these same 200-plus stocks, there were only 29 that S&P currently rates as 5-star or 4-star investment picks over the coming year. Here are the 10 highest dividend yields from this group:

Malayan Banking: 7.4 percent

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.: 6.1 percent

Vale S.A.: 5.6 percent

Lorillard Inc.: 5.3 percent

Petrofac Ltd.: 3.8 percent

Hasbro Inc.: 3.7 percent

Kla-Tencor Corp.: 3.4 percent

Norfolk Southern Corp.: 2.9 percent

Ensco Plc.: 2.5 percent

Cummins Inc.: 2.3 percent

[Read: How Much Confidence Do You Have in Your Mutual Fund Lineup?]

We also sliced this list of 200 five-year dividend growth stocks to include only the 15 that S&P said carried a "low" investment risk assessment. Here are the top 10 dividend yields from this more conservative list:

Anworth Mortgage Asset Corp.: 14.9 percent

Capstead Mortgage Corp.: 13.8 percent

MFA Financial Inc.: 11.1 percent

Nustar GP Holdings LLC: 6.5 percent

Shaw Communications: 4.8 percent

Dominion Resources Inc. (VA): 3.9 percent

Rogers Communications Inc.: 3.9 percent

Nucor Corp.: 3.7 percent

Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc.: 3 percent

General Dynamics Corp.: 3 percent

For investors wanting to stay on more familiar ground, here are the top 10 dividend yields among the stocks in the S&P 500 index:

Pitney Bowes Inc.: 11 percent

Windstream Corp.: 9.9 percent

Donnelley (R. R.) & Sons Co.: 9.4 percent

Frontier Communications Corp.: 8.2 percent

CenturyLink Inc.: 7.4 percent

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.: 6.1 percent

Exelon Corp.: 5.7 percent

Pepco Holdings Inc.: 5.5 percent

Reynolds American Inc.: 5.5 percent

Avon Products Inc.: 5.3 percent

S&P gives its top 5-star investment rating to 43 of the S&P 500 stocks. Here are the 10 highest-yielding dividends from this list:

Windstream Corp.: 9.9 percent

Philip Morris International Inc.: 3.7 percent

Applied Materials, Inc.: 3.3 percent

McDonald's Corp.: 3.3 percent

Chevron Corp.: 3.1 percent

CME Group Inc.: 3.1 percent

Microsoft Corp.: 3.1 percent

Aflac Inc.: 2.7 percent

Johnson Controls Inc.: 2.7 percent

Oneok Inc.: 2.7 percent