Better Buy for Total Returns: CNR Stock or CNQ Stock?

Investor wonders if it's safe to buy stocks now

Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR) and Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) are leaders in their respective industries and have good track records of delivering dividend growth and capital gains to investors over the long haul.

The stocks fared well during the market correction last year, and investors are wondering if one is good to buy right now for a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) or Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) focused on total returns.

Canadian National Railway

CN operates a unique network of rail lines that crosses Canada from the Pacific to the Atlantic and runs down through the heart of the United States to the Gulf Coast. The company serves a strategically important role in the smooth operation of the North American economy, moving essential goods and commodities from producers and suppliers to their customers.

CN demonstrated in 2022 that it has the power to raise prices when its costs increase. This is important for investors to consider in the current era of high inflation. Adjusted net income in 2022 rose to $ 5.13 billion from $ 4.23 billion in 2021. This helped the stock price finish the year in positive territory.

CN just raised the dividend by 8% for 2023, marking the 27th straight year of distribution increases. The company plans to repurchase up to 32 million common shares over the next 12 months as part of the new share-buyback program. This represents about 4.8% of the outstanding stock.

Canadian Natural Resources

CNRL is Canada’s largest energy producer with a current market capitalization of $ 83 billion. The company is widely known for its oil sands operations, but CNRL has a diversified portfolio of energy production that also includes conventional heavy and light oil, offshore oil, natural gas liquids, and natural gas.

Management used the cash windfall from soaring energy prices in the past two years to reduce debt, buy back stock, and raise the dividend. CNRL also paid out a special bonus dividend of $ 1.50 per share to investors last summer. The board has increased the payout annually for 22 years and has delivered a compound annual dividend growth rate of better than 20% over that timeframe. This is rare for energy producers who are at the mercy of commodity prices to determine their revenue and cash flow.

CNRL has a strong balance sheet that helps it navigate downswings in oil and gas prices. The company is also able to move capital around the portfolio quickly to take advantage of positive moves in energy prices. CNRL tends to own its assets 100%, so it has more capital flexibility than peers who might have multiple partners on projects.

At the time of writing, the stock trades near $ 75 compared to $ 88 last June. Investors can now get a 4.5% dividend yield. The fourth-quarter 2022 results will come out on March 2, 2023.

Is one a better pick today?

CN is probably the safer choice for buy-and hold investors who don’t want to worry about fluctuations in oil and gas prices. Investors seeking a higher dividend yield and a shot at more upside in the event energy prices take off again later this year might consider adding CNRL to their portfolios as their first choice. I would probably split a new TFSA or RRSP investment between the two stocks today.

The post Better Buy for Total Returns: CNR Stock or CNQ Stock? appeared first on The Motley Fool Canada.

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Our market-beating analyst team just revealed what they believe are the 5 best stocks for investors to buy in February 2023… and Canadian Natural Resources wasn’t on the list.

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See the 5 Stocks
* Returns as of 2/17/23

More reading

  • Why CNQ Stock Looks Like a Good Buy in February 2023
  • 3 in 4 Canadians Are Making a Retirement Mistake: Are You?
  • 5 Top TSX Stocks You Can Confidently Invest $ 500 in Right Now
  • What Share Buybacks Mean for Energy Investors in 2023 and 1 TSX Stock That Could Outperform
  • Passive Income: Avoid High-Yield Stocks. Buy This Instead

The Motley Fool recommends Canadian National Railway and Canadian Natural Resources. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Fool contributor Andrew Walker has no position in any stock mentioned.

Better Buy for Total Returns: CNR Stock or CNQ Stock?stock