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Are You Looking for a High-Growth Dividend Stock? Atmos Energy (ATO) Could Be a Great Choice

All investors love getting big returns from their portfolio, whether it's through stocks, bonds, ETFs, or other types of securities. But for income investors, generating consistent cash flow from each of your liquid investments is your primary focus.

Cash flow can come from bond interest, interest from other types of investments, and of course, 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 account for significant portions of long-term returns, with dividend contributions exceeding one-third of total returns in many cases.

Atmos Energy in Focus

Headquartered in Dallas, Atmos Energy (ATO) is a Utilities stock that has seen a price change of 8.56% so far this year. Currently paying a dividend of $0.68 per share, the company has a dividend yield of 2.39%. In comparison, the Utility - Gas Distribution industry's yield is 2.81%, while the S&P 500's yield is 1.47%.

Taking a look at the company's dividend growth, its current annualized dividend of $2.72 is up 8.8% from last year. In the past five-year period, Atmos Energy has increased its dividend 5 times on a year-over-year basis for an average annual increase of 8.75%. 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. Atmos's current payout ratio is 51%, meaning it paid out 51% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.

Looking at this fiscal year, ATO expects solid earnings growth. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2022 is $5.51 per share, representing a year-over-year earnings growth rate of 7.62%.

Bottom Line

Investors like dividends for many reasons; they greatly improve stock investing profits, decrease overall portfolio risk, and carry tax advantages, among others. However, not all companies offer 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 must be conscious of the fact that high-yielding stocks tend to struggle during periods of rising interest rates. With that in mind, ATO presents a compelling investment opportunity; it's not only an attractive dividend play, but the stock also boasts a strong Zacks Rank of #2 (Buy).


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