Prospects of Zacks
Transportation - Rail industry’s participants are being weighed down by challenges like inflation-induced high interest rates, elevated fuel price and supply-chain woes. Most industry players are looking to drive their bottom line amid the headwinds through cost reduction.
Partly due to these headwinds, the industry has declined 5.1% over the past six months against the S&P 500 Index’s 7.9% appreciation. The broader Zacks
Transportation sector has lost 0.3% in the said time frame. Image Source: Zacks Investment Research
Despite the challenges surrounding the industry, some railroad companies like
Union Pacific Corporation ( UNP Quick Quote UNP - Free Report) and Norfolk Southern Corporation ( NSC Quick Quote NSC - Free Report) have consistently announced dividend hikes, thus highlighting their pro-shareholder stance.
Stocks that have a strong history of dividend growth belong to mature companies, which are less susceptible to large swings in the market, and act as a hedge against economic or political uncertainty as well as stock market volatility. At the same time, these offer downside protection with their consistent increase in payouts.
Additionally, these companies have superior fundamentals like a sustainable business model, a long track of profitability, rising cash flows, good liquidity, a strong balance sheet and some value characteristics.
How to Pick Stocks With Solid Dividend Payouts?
In order to choose some of the best dividend stocks from the aforementioned industry, we have run the Zacks
Stock Screener to identify stocks with a dividend yield in excess of 2% and a sustainable dividend payout ratio of less than 60%. Each of the two stocks mentioned below carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).You can see . the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here Union Pacific: Headquartered in Omaha, NE, Union Pacific, through its subsidiary, Union Pacific Railroad Company, operates in the railroad business in the United States. Currently, it has a market capitalization of $122.94 billion.
UNP pays out a quarterly dividend of $1.30 ($5.20 annualized) per share, which gives it a 2.58% yield at the current stock price. This company’s payout ratio is 45% of its earnings at present. The five-year dividend growth rate is 12.02%. (
Check Union Pacific’s dividend history here).
Union Pacific’s consistent initiatives to reward its shareholders through dividends and share repurchases look encouraging. UNP hiked its dividend twice in 2021. In May 2022, UNP’s board of directors increased its quarterly cash dividend by 10% to $1.30 per share. Notably, Union Pacific has been paying dividends on its common stock for 123 consecutive years.
During first-quarter 2023, UNP paid dividends worth $795 million and repurchased shares worth $575 million. In 2022, UNP paid dividends worth $3,159 million and repurchased shares worth $6,282 million. For 2023, management continues to anticipate a dividend payout of approximately 45% (of earnings).
Norfolk Southern: Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Norfolk Southern engages in the rail transportation of raw materials, intermediate products and finished goods in the United States. Currently, it has a market capitalization of $49.66 billion.
NSC pays out a quarterly dividend of $1.35 ($5.40 annualized) per share, which gives it a 2.48% yield at the current stock price. This company’s payout ratio is 38% of its earnings at present. The five-year dividend growth rate is 11.95%. (
Check Norfolk Southern’s dividend history here).
Norfolk Southern's consistent initiatives to reward its shareholders through dividends and share repurchases are encouraging. In January 2023, the company's board announced a dividend hike of 9%, thereby raising its quarterly dividend payout from $1.24 per share to $1.35. In first-quarter 2023, Norfolk Southern paid dividends worth $307 million and repurchased and retired 0.6 million shares for $163 million.
In 2022, Norfolk Southern paid dividends worth $1,167 million and repurchased and retired common stock worth $3,110 million. In 2021, Norfolk Southern paid dividends worth $1,028 million and repurchased and retired common stock worth $3,390 million. Such shareholder-friendly moves indicate the company’s commitment to creating value for shareholders and underline its confidence in its business. These initiatives not only instill investors’ confidence but also positively impact earnings per share.