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Associated Banc-Corp (ASB) is a Top Dividend Stock Right Now: Should You Buy?

Zacks Equity Research

Whether it's through stocks, bonds, ETFs, or other types of securities, all investors love seeing their portfolios score big returns. But for income investors, generating consistent cash flow from each of your liquid investments is your primary focus.

Cash flow can come from bond interest, interest from other types of investments, and of course, dividends. A dividend is that coveted distribution of a company's earnings paid out to shareholders, and investors often view it by its dividend yield, a metric that measures the dividend as a percent of the current stock price. Many academic studies show that dividends make up large portions of long-term returns, and in many cases, dividend contributions surpass one-third of total returns.

Associated Banc-Corp in Focus

Associated Banc-Corp (ASB) is headquartered in Green Bay, and is in the Finance sector. The stock has seen a price change of 13.09% since the start of the year. The bank holding company is currently shelling out a dividend of $0.17 per share, with a dividend yield of 3.04%. This compares to the Banks - Midwest industry's yield of 2.4% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.9%.

Taking a look at the company's dividend growth, its current annualized dividend of $0.68 is up 9.7% from last year. Associated Banc-Corp has increased its dividend 5 times on a year-over-year basis over the last 5 years for an average annual increase of 13.85%. Any future dividend growth will depend on both earnings growth and the company's payout ratio; a payout ratio is the proportion of a firm's annual earnings per share that it pays out as a dividend. Associated Banc-Corp's current payout ratio is 34%, meaning it paid out 34% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.

Earnings growth looks solid for ASB for this fiscal year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2019 is $2.06 per share, with earnings expected to increase 1.48% from the year ago period.

Bottom Line

From greatly improving stock investing profits and reducing overall portfolio risk to providing tax advantages, investors like dividends for a variety of different reasons. However, not all companies offer a quarterly payout.

Big, established firms that have more secure profits are often seen as the best dividend options, but it's fairly uncommon to see high-growth businesses or tech start-ups offer their stockholders a dividend. During periods of rising interest rates, income investors must be mindful that high-yielding stocks tend to struggle. With that in mind, ASB 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).


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