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U.S. energy firm Apache Corporation (APA - Analyst Report) declared quarterly cash dividend of 25 cents per share, reflecting a significant sequential hike of 25.0% from the previous payout of 20 cents. The new dividend is likely to be paid on May 22, 2014, to shareholders of record as of Apr 22, 2014. Apache had approved a quarterly dividend hike of 18.0% and 13.0% in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

If the recently announced dividend is maintained for a year, the annualized dividend payout of the company will stand at $1.00 per share. Based on the closing price of $79.92 as on Feb 6, 2014, the proposed dividend affirms a yield of around 1.3%.

The dividend hike not only highlights Apache’s commitment to create value for shareholders but also underlines the oil and gas explorer’s healthy financial condition and confidence in its business prospects. Management added that the latest dividend increase reflects Apache’s strong confidence regarding its potential to execute near-term growth projects.

Marathon Oil Corp. (MRO - Analyst Report), an upstream operator like Apache, recently hiked its quarterly dividend. The raised dividend stands at 19 cents per share, reflecting a sequential rise of 12.0%.

Apache plans to report its fourth-quarter 2013 results on Feb 13, 2014, before the opening bell. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Apache’s fourth-quarter earnings is pegged at $1.82 per share.

Houston, Texas-based Apache currently retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), implying that it is expected to perform in line with the broader U.S. equity market over the next one to three months.   

Meanwhile, one can look at better-ranked players in the oil and gas production sector like Athlon Energy Inc. (ATHL - Snapshot Report) and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG - Analyst Report). Both the stocks sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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