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This is Why Merck (MRK) is a Great Dividend Stock

Zacks Equity Research
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Getting big returns from financial portfolios, whether through stocks, bonds, ETFs, other securities, or a combination of all, is an investor's dream. But for income investors, generating consistent cash flow from each of your liquid investments is your primary focus.

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 account for significant portions of long-term returns, with dividend contributions exceeding one-third of total returns in many cases.

Merck in Focus

Merck (MRK) is headquartered in Kenilworth, and is in the Medical sector. The stock has seen a price change of 24.06% since the start of the year. The pharmaceutical company is currently shelling out a dividend of $0.48 per share, with a dividend yield of 2.75%. This compares to the Large Cap Pharmaceuticals industry's yield of 2.61% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.9%.

Taking a look at the company's dividend growth, its current annualized dividend of $1.92 is up 1.6% from last year. Merck has increased its dividend 5 times on a year-over-year basis over the last 5 years for an average annual increase of 2.12%. 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. Merck's current payout ratio is 46%. This means it paid out 46% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.

MRK is expecting earnings to expand this fiscal year as well. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2018 is $4.28 per share, which represents a year-over-year growth rate of 7.54%.

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. It's important to keep in mind that not all companies provide a quarterly payout.

High-growth firms or tech start-ups, for example, rarely provide their shareholders a dividend, while larger, more established companies that have more secure profits are often seen as the best dividend options. During periods of rising interest rates, income investors must be mindful that high-yielding stocks tend to struggle. That said, they can take comfort from the fact that MRK is not only an attractive dividend play, but is also a compelling investment opportunity with a Zacks Rank of #2 (Buy).


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