Dividend Stock: Target (TGT)

Target announced last week that it raised its quarterly dividend 47% to 25 cents a share. The high dividend-yield increase is partnered with the resumption of a $10 billion buyback plan for Target stock. According to Target executives, the stock's cash generation is far more than needed "for optimal reinvestment in our core business." Target earnings were up 29% in its fiscal first quarter as Target May sales beat expectations.

The dividend increase will require Target to pony up an additional $235.7 million a year to pay shareholders, but that's a drop in the bucket for the retailer with a $40 billion market cap. Target is also reasonably priced, with a PE ratio of 15. Most importantly, the recent dividend increase for Target will take affect in its next payout in September, meaning any investor who buys in before the ex-dividend date of Aug. 18 will share in the payday.

In Target's case, the dividend increase -- coupled with the recent resumption of its $10 billion stock-buyback plan -- also comes as the company is slowing its store growth, a key focus of cash in years past. Target said in January it was putting the brakes on store expansion and would instead spend $1 billion this year on remodeling. Target, which has seen sales rebound some after weakness in 2008 and 2009, plans to open fewer than 10 stores this year, compared with nearly 60 in 2009 and a past annual average of nearly 100.

During the recession, Target put more emphasis on advertising its competitive prices on basics. It also began adding more groceries to its discount stores to increase customer visits and prompt shoppers to buy more high-margin items across the store -- a strategy that resulted in a 2.2% increase in shopper visits in the latest quarter.

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