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Dividend Stocks to Buy as Investors Come to Their Senses

March 15, 2011 – by Richard Band

The tragic events in Japan — earthquake, tsunami and now, radiation released from nuclear power plants — have riveted the world’s attention. Financial markets, too, are reacting. As I write, the Dow is down more than 200 points.

Before moving on to the financial aspects of the story, I can’t help reflecting, a moment, on the humanitarian dimensions of the tragedy. Here, in one of the world’s most advanced economies — despite the best of preparations, the best of warning systems and the best of rescue efforts — we’re witnessing a natural disaster that has taken thousands of lives.

If you are a praying person, I hope you will join me in remembering the people of Japan. The American Red Cross has set up a special web link to accept donations. You can also make a $10 contribution by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

It’s difficult to see a bright side of this catastrophe right now. But in the financial markets, at least, Japan’s woes have struck a thunderbolt of common sense into investors who, in recent weeks, had become increasingly detached from reality. Oil prices are falling. So are gold prices and stock prices — all welcome developments, in my view, because the previous uptrends had carried too far, fostering a dangerously unstable condition.

Now that prices have backtracked, value investors can step up our buying. Start with the market’s Steady Eddies, companies like Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG). Both are trading closer to their 52-week lows than highs, and both are paying generous dividends (above 3%). Buy JNJ at $62.50 or less and PG at $64 or less.

On the tech front, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) announced yesterday it will boost its dividend 50%, the company’s first increase since 1998. It’s about time! I like what I’m hearing from new CEO Leo Apotheker. He seems much more attuned to shareholder concerns than the past few HPQ honchos were. Buy HPQ at $46 or less.