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Merck (MRK) is a Top Dividend Stock Right Now: Should You Buy?

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Zacks Equity Research
·3-min read
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Getting big returns from financial portfolios, whether through stocks, bonds, ETFs, other securities, or a combination of all, is an investor's dream. However, when you're an income investor, your primary focus is generating consistent cash flow from each of your liquid investments.

Cash flow can come from bond interest, interest from other types of investments, and of course, 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.

Merck in Focus

Merck (MRK) is headquartered in Kenilworth, and is in the Medical sector. The stock has seen a price change of -6.71% since the start of the year. The pharmaceutical company is paying out a dividend of $0.65 per share at the moment, with a dividend yield of 3.41% compared to the Large Cap Pharmaceuticals industry's yield of 2.45% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.33%.

Taking a look at the company's dividend growth, its current annualized dividend of $2.60 is up 4.8% from last year. Merck has increased its dividend 5 times on a year-over-year basis over the last 5 years for an average annual increase of 8.50%. 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, Merck's payout ratio is 44%, which means it paid out 44% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.

Earnings growth looks solid for MRK for this fiscal year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 is $6.56 per share, with earnings expected to increase 10.44% from the year ago period.

Bottom Line

Investors like dividends for a variety of different reasons, from tax advantages and decreasing overall portfolio risk to considerably improving stock investing profits. It's important to keep in mind that not all companies provide 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 have to be mindful of the fact that high-yielding stocks tend to struggle during periods of rising interest rates. With that in mind, MRK 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).


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