Getting big returns from financial portfolios, whether through stocks, bonds, ETFs, other securities, or a combination of all, is an investor's dream. However, 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 that coveted distribution of a company's earnings paid out to shareholders, and investors often view it by its dividend yield, a metric that measures the 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
Headquartered in St Louis, Ameren (AEE) is a Utilities stock that has seen a price change of 0.08% so far this year. The utility is currently shelling out a dividend of $0.5 per share, with a dividend yield of 2.58%. This compares to the Utility - Electric Power industry's yield of 3.4% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.63%.
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 3.88%. Future dividend growth will depend on earnings growth as well as payout ratio, which is the proportion of a company's annual earnings per share that it pays out as a dividend. Ameren's current payout ratio is 58%, meaning it paid out 58% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.
Looking at this fiscal year, AEE expects solid earnings growth. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2020 is $3.46 per share, which represents a year-over-year growth rate of 3.28%.
From greatly improving stock investing profits and reducing overall portfolio risk to providing tax advantages, investors like dividends for a variety of different reasons. But, not every company offers 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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