Whether it's through stocks, bonds, ETFs, or other types of securities, all investors love seeing their portfolios score big returns. However, when you're an income investor, your primary focus is generating consistent cash flow from each of your liquid investments.
While cash flow can come from bond interest or interest from other types of investments, income investors hone in on 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 account for significant portions of long-term returns, with dividend contributions exceeding one-third of total returns in many cases.
Ameren in Focus
Based in St Louis, Ameren (AEE - Free Report) is in the Utilities sector, and so far this year, shares have seen a price change of 4.12%. The utility is paying out a dividend of $0.46 per share at the moment, with a dividend yield of 2.98% compared to the Utility - Electric Power industry's yield of 3.36% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.78%.
Taking a look at the company's dividend growth, its current annualized dividend of $1.83 is up 2.9% from last year. Over the last 5 years, Ameren has increased its dividend 4 times on a year-over-year basis for an average annual increase of 3.23%. 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 60%. This means it paid out 60% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.
AEE is expecting earnings to expand this fiscal year as well. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2018 is $3.05 per share, representing a year-over-year earnings growth rate of 7.77%.
Investors like dividends for a variety of different reasons, from tax advantages and decreasing overall portfolio risk to considerably improving stock investing profits. But, not every company offers a quarterly payout.
Big, established firms that have more secure profits are often seen as the best dividend options, but it's fairly uncommon to see high-growth businesses or tech start-ups offer their stockholders a dividend. Income investors must be conscious of the fact that high-yielding stocks tend to struggle during periods of rising interest rates. That said, they can take comfort from the fact that AEE is not only an attractive dividend play, but is also a compelling investment opportunity with a Zacks Rank of #2 (Buy).