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Another Commodity Dividend Bites The Dust

After one of the worst years in decades, commodity stocks are having a tough time staying afloat. Many are aggressively cutting costs and selling off assets after the price of oil, gas, and many other commodities collapsed in 2014. But in many cases, these actions are not enough to preserve the dividends of many struggling companies.

Freeport McMoRan (FCX) is the latest example of a company that had to make a difficult choice. Freeport is a copper and gold miner, and also has a large oil and gas business. Recently, the stock was offering a 6% dividend yield. But its sky-high yield was simply the result of a collapsing stock price, since prices and yields are inversely related. Freeport’s profits crumbled last year, and the company was bloated with debt after its oil and gas acquisitions. At the end of last quarter, Freeport held over $18 billion in long-term debt. The company was free cash flow negative last year by $1.6 billion. As a result, the company today cut its dividend by more than 80%.

This underscores a critical lesson for investors: don’t chase yield.