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Is CMS Energy (CMS) a Great Dividend Play?

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Whether it's through stocks, bonds, ETFs, or other types of securities, all investors love seeing their portfolios score big returns. But 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.

CMS Energy in Focus

Based in Jackson, CMS Energy (CMS - Free Report) is in the Utilities sector, and so far this year, shares have seen a price change of 1.82%. The energy company is paying out a dividend of $0.36 per share at the moment, with a dividend yield of 2.97% compared to the Utility - Electric Power industry's yield of 3.32% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.77%.

Looking at dividend growth, the company's current annualized dividend of $1.43 is up 7.5% from last year. Over the last 5 years, CMS Energy has increased its dividend 5 times on a year-over-year basis for an average annual increase of 7.23%. 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. CMS Energy's current payout ratio is 58%, meaning it paid out 58% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.

Earnings growth looks solid for CMS for this fiscal year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2018 is $2.34 per share, with earnings expected to increase 7.83% from the year ago period.

Bottom Line

Investors like dividends for many reasons; they greatly improve stock investing profits, decrease overall portfolio risk, and carry tax advantages, among others. 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. 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 CMS 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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