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Is It Smart To Buy Mercury General Corporation (NYSE:MCY) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend?

Simply Wall St

Mercury General Corporation (NYSE:MCY) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 4 days time. Ex-dividend means that investors that purchase the stock on or after the 11th of September will not receive this dividend, which will be paid on the 26th of September.

Mercury General's next dividend payment will be US$0.63 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$2.51 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Mercury General stock has a trailing yield of around 4.5% on the current share price of $55.55. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.

See our latest analysis for Mercury General

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. Mercury General is paying out an acceptable 71% of its profit, a common payout level among most companies.

Generally speaking, the lower a company's payout ratios, the more resilient its dividend usually is.

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

NYSE:MCY Historical Dividend Yield, September 6th 2019

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Stocks in companies that generate sustainable earnings growth often make the best dividend prospects, as it is easier to lift the dividend when earnings are rising. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. For this reason, we're glad to see Mercury General's earnings per share have risen 12% per annum over the last five years.

Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Since the start of our data, 10 years ago, Mercury General has lifted its dividend by approximately 0.8% a year on average. It's good to see both earnings and the dividend have improved - although the former has been rising much quicker than the latter, possibly due to the company reinvesting more of its profits in growth.

To Sum It Up

Is Mercury General an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? Earnings per share are growing at an attractive rate, and Mercury General is paying out a bit over half its profits. Mercury General ticks a lot of boxes for us from a dividend perspective, and we think these characteristics should mark the company as deserving of further attention.

Wondering what the future holds for Mercury General? See what the three analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow

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.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.