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Stifel Financial Corp. (NYSE:SF) Has Got What It Takes To Be An Attractive Dividend Stock

Simply Wall St

Is Stifel Financial Corp. (NYSE:SF) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

With only a two-year payment history, and a 1.0% yield, investors probably think Stifel Financial is not much of a dividend stock. Many of the best dividend stocks typically start out paying a low yield, so we wouldn't automatically cut it from our list of prospects. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 7.6% of market capitalisation this year. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Stifel Financial for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

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NYSE:SF Historical Dividend Yield, December 12th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 9.9% of Stifel Financial's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. Given the low payout ratio, it is hard to envision the dividend coming under threat, barring a catastrophe.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Stifel Financial's financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. The dividend has not fluctuated much, but with a relatively short payment history, we can't be sure this is sustainable across a full market cycle. During the past two-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.40 in 2017, compared to US$0.60 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 22% per year over this time.

Stifel Financial has been growing its dividend quite rapidly, which is exciting. However, the short payment history makes us question whether this performance will persist across a full market cycle.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Stifel Financial has grown its earnings per share at 16% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share are growing at a solid clip, and the payout ratio is low. We think this is an ideal combination in a dividend stock.

Conclusion

When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. Firstly, we like that Stifel Financial has a low and conservative payout ratio. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we'd like. Stifel Financial has a number of positive attributes, but falls short of our ideal dividend company. It may be worth a look at the right price, though.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 6 analysts we track are forecasting for Stifel Financial for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.