What is an 'Income Stock'

An income stock is an equity security that pays regular, often steadily increasing dividends, and offers a high yield that may generate the majority of overall returns. While there is no specific breakpoint for classification, most income stocks have lower levels of volatility than the overall stock market, and offer higher-than-market dividend yields. Income stocks may have limited future growth options, thereby requiring a lower level of ongoing capital investment. The excess cash flow from profits can therefore be directed back toward investors on a regular basis.

Income stocks can come from any industry, but are most commonly found as companies operating within real estate (through real estate investment trusts, or REITs), energy sectors, utilities, natural resources and financial institutions.

BREAKING DOWN 'Income Stock'

Income stocks are sought by conservative investors who still want some exposure to corporate profit growth. They also have steady streams of revenue that allow for a high level of income payout to investors.

The ideal income stock would have a very low volatility (as the Beta would measure), a dividend yield higher than prevailing 10-year treasury bond rates, and a modest level of annual profit growth. Ideal income stocks would also show a history of increasing dividends on a regular basis so as to keep up with inflation, which eats away at future cash payments.

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