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Are Dividend Yields Too High?

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time the stock market was on a tear, it just came off it all time high of 14,136 and looked like it was taking a healthy pull back, waiting to go up again. Then all of a sudden all the walls started to fall from the house of cards that had been built over the last few years. Signs of trouble from the sub-prime mortgage were starting to show.
Fast-forward back to November 2008. The stock markets have lost nearly 50% from where they were last year and everyone is running for some sort of safe place to hide their money until the storm has passed. Jim Cramer from TheStreet.com
has been suggesting hiding out in strong companies that have some great dividends.
What are dividends? Dividends are what some companies give to their shareholders. Basically dividends are cash that the company distributes from their cash reserves because they don’t have anything else to do with the profits that they make every year.
Dividend payouts are figured on a percentage basis of what the share is worth at the time. When stocks drop in value, the yield on those dividends rises. Let’s say that a company’s stock is valued at $100 and they give a $5 dividend payout for the year (typically broken up in four payments), the yield of those dividends are 5%. Now if the company is now trading at $40 per share, the yield would be calculated at 12.5%. That would be some great returns on your investment. You can’t get that in any other type of investments.
The problem comes in where the yield is too high for the company to keep paying out that dividend. So the company will cut the dividend to help the company keep some cash flow. So what is considered the “sweet-spot” yield for dividends? It’s hard to really pinpoint it. Typically look for those strong companies that give any where in the 3%-7% yield, but anything that is over 10% is considered too high to really expect it to stay there.
Don’t get me wrong there are some that continue to give double digit yields, but they’re few and far between. The only one that I can say that kept their dividend payout the same this past month was Atlas Pipeline Partners (NYSE:APL). The stock was trading at $18 per share and their quarterly payout was $0.96 per share. That was a 5% yield just for the quarter, if you calculate it for the year it comes out to a 20% yield. I don’t expect it to be the same when they pay out their next dividend in February 2009. The company is in trouble now that oil has come down so much, so my advice is to stay away from Atlas.

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