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Manulife Financial (MFC) is a Top Dividend Stock Right Now: Should You Buy?

Zacks Equity Research

Getting big returns from financial portfolios, whether through stocks, bonds, ETFs, other securities, or a combination of all, is an investor's dream. 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 that dividends account for significant portions of long-term returns, with dividend contributions exceeding one-third of total returns in many cases.

Manulife Financial in Focus

Based in Toronto, Manulife Financial (MFC) is in the Finance sector, and so far this year, shares have seen a price change of 28.12%. The financial services company is paying out a dividend of $0.19 per share at the moment, with a dividend yield of 4.19% compared to the Insurance - Life Insurance industry's yield of 0.48% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.9%.

Looking at dividend growth, the company's current annualized dividend of $0.76 is up 7.6% from last year. Over the last 5 years, Manulife Financial has increased its dividend 5 times on a year-over-year basis for an average annual increase of 9.08%. 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. Manulife's current payout ratio is 36%, meaning it paid out 36% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.

MFC is expecting earnings to expand this fiscal year as well. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2019 is $2.19 per share, with earnings expected to increase 3.79% from the year ago period.

Bottom Line

Investors like dividends for a variety of different reasons, from tax advantages and decreasing overall portfolio risk to considerably improving stock investing profits. 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. Income investors have to be mindful of the fact that high-yielding stocks tend to struggle during periods of rising interest rates. That said, they can take comfort from the fact that MFC is not only an attractive dividend play, but also represents a compelling investment opportunity with a Zacks Rank of #1 (Strong Buy).


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