All investors love getting big returns from their portfolio, whether it's through stocks, bonds, ETFs, or other types of securities. 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.
Manulife Financial in Focus
Based in Toronto, Manulife Financial (MFC - Free Report) is in the Finance sector, and so far this year, shares have seen a price change of 28.54%. Currently paying a dividend of $0.19 per share, the company has a dividend yield of 4.16%. In comparison, the Insurance - Life Insurance industry's yield is 0.74%, while the S&P 500's yield is 1.91%.
In terms of dividend growth, the company's current annualized dividend of $0.76 is up 7.6% from last year. Manulife Financial has increased its dividend 4 times on a year-over-year basis over the last 5 years for an average annual increase of 9.08%. 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. Right now, Manulife's payout ratio is 34%, which means it paid out 34% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.
Earnings growth looks solid for MFC for this fiscal year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2019 is $2.21 per share, representing a year-over-year earnings growth rate of 4.74%.
From greatly improving stock investing profits and reducing overall portfolio risk to providing tax advantages, investors like dividends for a variety of different reasons. It's important to keep in mind that not all companies provide a quarterly payout.
High-growth firms or tech start-ups, for example, rarely provide their shareholders a dividend, while larger, more established companies that have more secure profits are often seen as the best dividend options. Income investors have to be mindful of the fact that high-yielding stocks tend to struggle during periods of rising interest rates. With that in mind, MFC 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).