Whether it's through stocks, bonds, ETFs, or other types of securities, all investors love seeing their portfolios score big returns. But when you're an income investor, your primary focus is generating consistent cash flow from each of your liquid investments.
Cash flow can come from bond interest, interest from other types of investments, and of course, 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 make up large portions of long-term returns, and in many cases, dividend contributions surpass one-third of total returns.
Ameren in Focus
Based in St Louis, Ameren (AEE) is in the Utilities sector, and so far this year, shares have seen a price change of -10.2%. The utility is paying out a dividend of $0.5 per share at the moment, with a dividend yield of 2.87% compared to the Utility - Electric Power industry's yield of 3.54% and the S&P 500's yield of 2.21%.
In terms of dividend growth, the company's current annualized dividend of $1.98 is up 3.1% from last year. Over the last 5 years, Ameren has increased its dividend 5 times on a year-over-year basis for an average annual increase of 3.91%. 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. Ameren's current payout ratio is 59%, meaning it paid out 59% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.
Earnings growth looks solid for AEE for this fiscal year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2020 is $3.41 per share, with earnings expected to increase 1.79% from the year ago period.
From greatly improving stock investing profits and reducing overall portfolio risk to providing tax advantages, investors like dividends for a variety of different reasons. It's important to keep in mind that not all companies provide a quarterly payout.
For instance, it's a rare occurrence when a tech start-up or big growth business offers their shareholders a dividend. It's more common to see larger companies with more established profits give out dividends. During periods of rising interest rates, income investors must be mindful that high-yielding stocks tend to struggle. With that in mind, AEE 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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