The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is taking a breather after its recent bullish charge. The blue-chip index is down 0.9% at midday, hurt by a cocktail of worrisome news on Mediterranean economies and a surprising pullback on rising oil prices. Of the 30 Dow components, 29 are in the red right now.
Amid the carnage, you'll find pharma giant Merck (NYSE:MRK) dropping 2%. That's the second-steepest fall on the Dow today. The macroeconomic worries were underscored by a couple of downgrades by analysts citing risks in Merck's drug development pipeline.
But pipeline risks are nothing new. Biotech and pharmaceuticals investors are used to dealing with the FDA wild card, and Merck's drug-approval uncertainty is always priced into the stock.
Buy Merck today, and you'll lock in a stellar 4.1% dividend yield. That's richer than fellow Dow members Johnson & Johnson, at 3.3%, and Pfizer, at 3.5%. In fact, Merck sports the fourth-richest yield on the Dow today, behind only the telecom cash machines and drastically undervalued semiconductor titan Intel. I have personally found Intel's yield irresistible, and Merck isn't far behind.
And that's not all. The quarterly payouts were frozen at $0.38 per share for seven years, starting in 2004. The dividend has been boosted twice in the last five quarters and now sits at $0.43 per share, per quarter.
This willingness to raise the payouts speaks volumes about Merck's confidence in the current product pipeline.
Long story short, Merck's dividend looks rich today but is likely to head even higher over the years. Investors with a yen for income-generation would do well to take a closer look at exploiting this opportunity.
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