All investors love getting big returns from their portfolio, whether it's through stocks, bonds, ETFs, or other types of securities. But when you're an income investor, your primary focus is generating consistent cash flow from each of your liquid investments.
While cash flow can come from bond interest or interest from other types of investments, income investors hone in on dividends. A dividend is the distribution of a company's earnings paid out to shareholders; it's often viewed by its dividend yield, a metric that measures a dividend as a percent of the current stock price. Many academic studies show tha t dividends account for significant portions of long-term returns, with dividend contributions exceeding one-third of total returns in many cases.
Merck in Focus
Based in Kenilworth, Merck (MRK) is in the Medical sector, and so far this year, shares have seen a price change of 0.05%. Currently paying a dividend of $0.55 per share, the company has a dividend yield of 2.88%. In comparison, the Large Cap Pharmaceuticals industry's yield is 2.84%, while the S&P 500's yield is 1.97%.
Taking a look at the company's dividend growth, its current annualized dividend of $2.20 is up 10.6% from last year. Over the last 5 years, Merck has increased its dividend 5 times on a year-over-year basis for an average annual increase of 2.88%. Future dividend growth will depend on earnings growth as well as payout ratio, which is the proportion of a company's annual earnings per share that it pays out as a dividend. Merck's current payout ratio is 45%, meaning it paid out 45% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.
Earnings growth looks solid for MRK for this fiscal year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2019 is $4.64 per share, which represents a year-over-year growth rate of 6.91%.
Investors like dividends for many reasons; they greatly improve stock investing profits, decrease overall portfolio risk, and carry tax advantages, among others. It's important to keep in mind that not all companies provide a quarterly payout.
For instance, it's a rare occurrence when a tech start-up or big growth business offers their shareholders a dividend. It's more common to see larger companies with more established profits give out dividends. Income investors have to be mindful of the fact that high-yielding stocks tend to struggle during periods of rising interest rates. With that in mind, MRK is a compelling investment opportunity. Not only is it a strong dividend play, but the stock currently sits at a Zacks Rank of 3 (Hold).