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 the distribution of a company's earnings paid out to shareholders; it's often viewed by its dividend yield, a metric that measures a dividend as a percent of the current stock price. Many academic studies show that dividends make up large portions of long-term returns, and in many cases, dividend contributions surpass one-third of total returns.
Southwest Gas in Focus
Southwest Gas (SWX - Free Report) is headquartered in Las Vegas, and is in the Utilities sector. The stock has seen a price change of 14.12% since the start of the year. The natural gas company is paying out a dividend of $0.55 per share at the moment, with a dividend yield of 2.5% compared to the Utility - Gas Distribution industry's yield of 2.7% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.87%.
Looking at dividend growth, the company's current annualized dividend of $2.18 is up 6.1% from last year. In the past five-year period, Southwest Gas has increased its dividend 5 times on a year-over-year basis for an average annual increase of 8.77%. Looking ahead, future dividend growth will be dependent on earnings growth and payout ratio, which is the proportion of a company's annual earnings per share that it pays out as a dividend. Southwest Gas's current payout ratio is 58%, meaning it paid out 58% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.
Earnings growth looks solid for SWX for this fiscal year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2019 is $4.02 per share, which represents a year-over-year growth rate of 9.24%.
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, SWX 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).