According to Dividend Channel, in trading on Friday, shares of Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc. (PNY) were yielding above the 4% mark based on its quarterly dividend (annualized to $1.16), with the stock changing hands as low as $28.80 on the day. Dividends are particularly important for investors to consider, because historically speaking dividends have provided a considerable share of the stock market's total return. To illustrate, suppose for example you purchased shares of the iShares Russell 3000 ETF (IWV) back on 5/31/2000 — you would have paid $78.27 per share. Fast forward to 5/31/2011 and each share was worth $80.78 on that date, a mere $2.51 or 3.2% increase over eleven years. But now consider that you collected a whopping $9.69 per share in dividends over the same period, increasing your return to 20.27%. Even with dividends reinvested, that only amounts to an average annual total return of about 1.7%; so by comparison collecting a yield above 4% would appear considerably attractive if that yield is sustainable. Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc. (PNY) is a member of the Russell 3000, giving it special status as one of the largest 3000 companies on the U.S. stock markets.
In general, dividend amounts are not always predictable and tend to follow the ups and downs of profitability at each company. In the case of Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc., looking at the history chart for PNY below can help in judging whether the most recent dividend is likely to continue, and in turn whether it is a reasonable expectation to expect a 4% annual yield.
PNY operates in the Gas Utilities sector, among companies like Star Gas Partners L.P. (SGU) which is up about 0.5% today, and Chesapeake Utilities Corp. (CPK) trading higher by about 0.5%. Below is a three month price history chart comparing the stock performance of PNY, versus SGU and CPK.