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Should You Buy Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) For Its Upcoming Dividend?

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Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 3 days. The ex-dividend date is one business day before the record date, which is the cut-off date for shareholders to be present on the company's books to be eligible for a dividend payment. The ex-dividend date is important as the process of settlement involves two full business days. So if you miss that date, you would not show up on the company's books on the record date. Thus, you can purchase Caterpillar's shares before the 22nd of October in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 19th of November.

The company's next dividend payment will be US$1.11 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$4.44 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Caterpillar has a trailing yield of 2.2% on the current share price of $199.02. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.

See our latest analysis for Caterpillar

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. Caterpillar paid out 52% of its earnings to investors last year, a normal payout level for most businesses. That said, even highly profitable companies sometimes might not generate enough cash to pay the dividend, which is why we should always check if the dividend is covered by cash flow. Thankfully its dividend payments took up just 40% of the free cash flow it generated, which is a comfortable payout ratio.

It's positive to see that Caterpillar's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

Click here to see the company's payout ratio, plus analyst estimates of its future dividends.

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historic-dividend

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Companies with consistently growing earnings per share generally make the best dividend stocks, as they usually find it easier to grow dividends per share. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. Fortunately for readers, Caterpillar's earnings per share have been growing at 14% a year for the past five years. Caterpillar has an average payout ratio which suggests a balance between growing earnings and rewarding shareholders. This is a reasonable combination that could hint at some further dividend increases in the future.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. In the last 10 years, Caterpillar has lifted its dividend by approximately 9.7% a year on average. We're glad to see dividends rising alongside earnings over a number of years, which may be a sign the company intends to share the growth with shareholders.

To Sum It Up

Is Caterpillar worth buying for its dividend? Caterpillar's growing earnings per share and conservative payout ratios make for a decent combination. We also like that it paid out a lower percentage of its cash flow. It's a promising combination that should mark this company worthy of closer attention.

On that note, you'll want to research what risks Caterpillar is facing. For example - Caterpillar has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.

If you're in the market for dividend stocks, we recommend checking our list of top dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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