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Screening for Stocks With High Relative Dividend Yields

by Charles Rotblut, CFA

Screening For Stocks With High Relative Dividend Yields Splash image

Many respondents to a July AAII survey said they were favoring dividend-paying stocks over pure growth or value stocks. The reasons are not surprising. The stream of income offered by dividends provides some comfort in volatile market conditions. Furthermore, Treasury yields have fallen to low levels. During July and August, yields on the 10-year note were below 3%. Dividend-paying stocks can offer comparable yields with the possibility of dividend growth and capital appreciation.

Not all dividends are created equal, however. Many companies have either cut or eliminated their dividends since 2007. Therefore, it is important that investors pay attention to how committed management has been to ensuring dividends are paid and whether the size of the dividend has increased, stayed the same or been cut.

High Relative Dividend Yields

AAII tracks a high-yield screen that seeks companies with characteristics that include:

  • An established history of rising dividends;
  • A high dividend yield relative to its historical norm;
  • Earnings growth that outpaces industry norm; and
  • Liabilities below the industry norm.

A history of rising dividends implies that management has historically maintained a focus on providing an increasing level of income to shareholders.

The relative dividend yield is a measure of valuation. It is used to signal whether a company is trading at a discount compared to its historical range. Higher yields signal a lower valuation, though other measures, such as the price-earnings ratio, should also be considered. A higher yield can also signal concerns about the company’s business or financial status; therefore, thorough research is required.

Above-industry-average earnings growth suggests the company’s profitability should have the ability to support higher dividends in the future. Both characteristics increase the possibility, but do not guarantee, that dividends may be raised in the future. Lower levels of debt allow for more cash to be available for dividend payments. (Less cash needs to be used to service debt.) Comparing debt levels to the industry median allows the strategy to adjust to differing capital requirements.

Each month at AAII.com, we post an updated list of the companies that pass the high-relative-yield screen. We also show the performance of the strategy based on a hypothetical portfolio. Investors wanting a more frequent update of the passing company list can use Stock Investor Pro, AAII’s fundamental stock screening and research database program.

Screen Performance

The High Relative Dividend Yield screen has outperformed the S&P 500 index on a cumulative basis since the beginning of 1998. This screen has achieved a cumulative return of 138.4% over the period of January 1998 through July 2010 (Figure 1). The performance does not include dividend payments; returns would have been higher if dividend payments were added in to the calculations.

The stream of income provided by dividends is perceived as providing a cushion against turbulent market conditions. Though the periodic payments do add to overall portfolio performance, dividend-yielding stocks are not immune from the volatility of the overall market. In 2007 and 2008, our High Relative Dividend Yield screen fell 9.6% and 21.4%, respectively.

Sector Breakdown

Financial companies comprise the largest group of passing companies (27% of the current results). Consumer non-cyclicals and services were the second- and third-most represented sectors. No single sector stood out as having companies with the highest relative yields.

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Despite the sector’s reputation for paying dividends, only two utility companies passed the screen. This does not mean that utility companies no longer are a source of income, but rather that many did not meet the criteria for a high relative yield or rising dividends.

What It Takes: Screen Criteria

The High Relative Dividend Yield screen uses the following criteria:

  • The company does not trade on the over-the-counter exchange and is not in the miscellaneous financial services industry (the latter requirement is to exclude closed-end funds);
  • The company has seven years of price and dividend records;
  • The annual dividend has increased over each of the last six years and the company has not reduced its annual dividend payment;
  • The seven-year growth rate in dividends is greater than 3%;
  • The current dividend yield is greater than the average yield over the last seven years;
  • The payout ratio (dividends per share divided by earnings per share) for the last four quarters (trailing 12 months) is less than or equal to 85% for utilities and less than or equal to 50% for companies in other industries;
  • Total liabilities relative to assets is below the industry median for the last reported fiscal quarter; and
  • The annualized growth rate in diluted earnings per share from continuing operations over the last three years is greater than or equal to the median annualized growth rate for the industry over the same time period.

Passing Companies

Table 1 presents the characteristics of the companies passing the High Relative Dividend Yield screen. Table 2 lists the 20 highest-yielding exchange-listed stocks that passed the High Relative Dividend Yield screen using data as of August 6, 2010. The passing companies have increased fully diluted earnings per share from continuing operations over the last seven-year period by a median of 12.3%, compared to 5.2% for all exchange-listed stocks. Yields, based on the indicated dividend (the cumulative dividend a company expects to pay over the next four quarters), are a median 2.3% for passing companies compared to 0.0% for all exchange-listed stocks.

Portfolio Characteristics (Median) High
Relative
Div Yield
Exchange-
Listed
Stocks
Dividend yield (%) 2.3 0.0
Price-earnings ratio (X) 16.0 16.9
Price-to-book-value ratio (X) 2.1 1.5
Payout ratio 12 mo. (%) 32.8 2.6
EPS 7 yr. historical growth rate (%) 12.3 5.2
EPS 3-5 yr. estimated growth rate (%) 11.3 12.5
Market cap. ($ million) 2952.6 417.7
Relative strength vs. S&P (S&P=0) (%) -3.0 0.0

The company with the highest yield was Vodafone Group VOD. VOD yielded 7% as of August 6, 2010. Vodafone is a global telecommunications company and is a co-owner of Verizon Wireless. The company has a seven-year dividend growth rate of 23.0% and a seven-year earnings growth rate of 17.5%. Its payout ratio of 37.8% compares to an industry median of 22.7%.

Company (Exchange: Ticker) Market
Cap
($ Mil)
Dividend Yield 7-Yr Growth Rate Payout
Ratio
(%)
DRP
Available
 
Current
(%)
7-Yr
Avg
(%)
 
Dividend
(%)
EPS
(%)
 
Industry
Vodafone Group (ADR) (M: VOD) 130,545.70 7.0 3.8 23.0 17.5 37.8 Yes Communications Servs
Mercury General Corp. (N: MCY) 2,231.20 5.8 4.0 9.9 29.3 47.4 No Insurance (Prop & Cas)
Teche Holding Co. (A: TSH) 59.20 5.0 3.0 16.0 3.2 41.0 Yes S&Ls/Savings Banks
Universal Corp. (N: UVV) 912.60 5.0 3.8 3.9 5.2 34.1 Yes Tobacco
Avista Corp. (N: AVA) 1,169.70 4.7 3.2 7.8 14.9 59.7 Yes Electric Utilities
Norwood Financial Corp. (M: NWFL) 76.80 4.0 3.0 9.7 6.8 42.7 Yes Regional Banks
Orrstown Financial Servs (M: ORRF) 191.30 3.8 2.1 15.0 10.0 42.1 Yes Regional Banks
Bar Harbor Bankshares (A: BHB) 105.70 3.7 3.4 4.6 12.3 36.4 Yes Regional Banks
Chevron Corp. (N: CVX) 158,148.30 3.7 3.3 9.6 38.8 32.7 Yes Oil & Gas - Integrated
National Bankshares (M: NKSH) 174.70 3.5 3.3 8.0 5.4 39.2 No Regional Banks
York Water Co. (M: YORW) 181.40 3.5 3.2 5.5 6.9 77.3 Yes Water Utilities
Flowers Foods, Inc. (N: FLO) 2,148.70 3.4 2.0 82.7 39.5 48.3 Yes Food Processing
First Financial Corp. (M: THFF) 369.60 3.3 2.6 5.5 -2.7 49.5 No Regional Banks
Procter & Gamble (N: PG) 172,851.90 3.2 2.3 11.9 12.0 41.8 Yes Personal & House Prods
Apogee Enterprises (M: APOG) 294.00 3.1 1.9 5.3 0.9 43.4 No Constru’n - Suppl & Fixt
Intel Corp. (M: INTC) 114,979.20 3.1 1.7 32.0 7.7 35.1 Yes Semiconductors
McDonald’s Corp. (N: MCD) 77,177.70 3.1 2.6 35.9 29.0 48.5 Yes Restaurants
Oil-Dri Corp. of Amer (N: ODC) 151.30 3.0 2.8 10.1 40.0 44.8 No Personal & House Prods
V.F. Corp. (N: VFC) 8,872.30 3.0 2.8 13.6 25.1 47.0 Yes Apparel/Accessories
Chubb Corp.(N: CB) 16,907.50 2.8 2.4 10.4 38.1 21.3 Yes Insurance (Prop & Cas)

Though dividends have been consistently raised, earnings have been volatile. The company lost money between fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2007. Profits also pulled back during fiscal 2009. (Vodafone operates on an April to March fiscal year.)

Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRPs)

Some of the companies identified by the screen do provide dividend reinvestment plans (DRPs or DRIPs), but not all—as is noted in Table 2.

These plans allow shareholders to use their dividends to purchase additional shares of stock, instead of receiving dividends in cash. (The dividend is still taxable, even if it is reinvested, for shares held in a non-retirement account.)

There are typically little or no transaction costs, though you should check with the company to be sure.

Conclusion

This High Relative Dividend Yield screen identifies companies with strong dividend credentials that are trading at relatively high yields. Though dividends can add to total return, they do not protect a stock from the market’s volatility.

Keep in mind that stock screens such as this high-yield approach only represent a starting point in the investing process. They allow you to isolate companies with similar quantifiable characteristics. However, it is important to perform additional due diligence on any company that passes a stock screen. The end goal is to find stocks that match your investing timeframe, tolerances and constraints.

Finally, pay attention to any tax legislation this year. If Congress does not act, dividend tax rates will rise in 2011. This will adversely impact aftertax returns and could potentially influence sentiment toward high-yield stocks. If Congress does act, it is unclear what the tax rate on dividends will be and how it might affect investing decisions.

 

Click here for the latest passing companies and performance data

 

Charles Rotblut, CFA is a vice president at AAII and editor of the AAII Journal. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CharlesRAAII.


Discussion

R from ME posted over 3 years ago:

Good stuff. Been hoping to get into dividend paying shares that seem pretty reliable instead of hoping that one of these days interest rates will rise again. We have idle cash available and will use this information.
Thank you.


Patricia from NY posted over 3 years ago:

If the high dividend stock was in my Roth account, tax legislation
wouldn't have an impact, right?


Edward from UT posted over 3 years ago:

Charles,
Thanks for this article and screening of high relative dividend stocks. I have been thinking about this topic actively for over a year and never quite gained a sense of confidence in choosing a safe stock. My lifetime experience with any high yielding investment has been, watch out, it's too good to be true, BOHICA. BP was one of my considerations just before the Gulf of Mexico disaster. This approach appears to reduce the risk and narrow the research field.
ROTH IRA income should be tax free baring early withdrawals.
Ed


Jim from CA posted over 3 years ago:

Patricia right


G. ed from CA posted over 3 years ago:

most company's drips r now handled out of company and IF ONE IS NOT SPOT-ON VGILANT excessive costs can be incurred.


Richard from FL posted over 3 years ago:

Great article and idea for a stock screen. It is also important to note that the dividend yield you receive is based on the price you paid for the stock. In other words, as stock prices and dividend amounts-paid change, your personal dividend yield may no longer match the reported current dividend yield. So trading out of your current dividend paying stock for another with a higher reported current dividend yield may not be a wise decision.


Charles Rotblut from IL posted over 3 years ago:

Any changes in dividend taxes may affect sentiment towards dividend stocks. In tax-deferred account (e.g., a traditional or Roth IRA), you do not pay incur taxes on dividends received, but the value of your portfolio will be influenced by whether dividend stocks rise or fall.

Obviously, any change in tax laws will impact what you pay on IRA withdrawals and Roth IRA conversions.


Jerome from AZ posted over 3 years ago:

These screens are good and, as you say, a starting point. Personally I favor closed end funds, usually traded as any stock on the New York Stock Exchange, such as those managed by Cohen & Steers, John Hancock, ING, and other highly professional managers. This way I can get higher yields, with leverage if I so choose, and the benefit of having professionals do the buying and selling of the portfolio held by the fund. Also, in my mix, are some preferred stocks, mostly issued by financial and real estate oriented companys, that pay fixed quarterly dividends and yield upwards of 8%. Maybe the writers of these articles think this type of investing is more (or too) risky, but it has worked well for me.


Raymond from CO posted over 3 years ago:

Good article, was wondering if there are any such investment vehicles in the reit are, and is there such a thing as a prefered reit,whether it be via a mutual fund or etf?


Melvin from CA posted over 3 years ago:

Where do I find the HIGH HIGH Risk dividends ????


Mike from CA posted over 3 years ago:

In addition to seeking high-yield dividend stocks, you can also increase the yield by writing call options against them each month. Free tutorial on covered calls here:
http://www.borntosell.com


Leon from TX posted over 3 years ago:

Great article and it was what I am presently looking for. Is this Screen Model presently available?

If so where and if not when?

Thanks....


Robert from PA posted over 3 years ago:

VOD yield is now 3.5% per morningstar, vod pays div semiaunualy. vod recent history show a low div in nov & a higher div in June. Combined for only $1 .30. for 2010. Even at a low price in July. ex $23.25 yield would be 5.6%. I have seen several div yields posted at 7% & several in 3% range in recent various publications from different publications. What is correct??


D. from MD posted over 3 years ago:

Larry Swedroe seems to be firmly of the opinion that dividend investing is neither fish nor fowl; that you should make a clear separation between value stocks or bonds to optimize your risk premium. How do dividend investment fans respond to this?


Andrew from FL posted over 3 years ago:

Look at Canadian Companies paying dividends in Canadian Dollars. Boosts yield for Americans. Look at MLP . Higher yields.


Hardave from NJ posted over 3 years ago:

I am surprised that the author made such a basic mistake. VOD pays dividends twice a year and not quarterly making the effective yield under 3.5% at todays price.

Missed were two companies in the same telecom space, namely AT&T and Verizon. Both with better than 5% dividend yield at todays stock price. I purchased AT&T stock in March 2011, the yield at that time was 6%.


Nash from GA posted over 3 years ago:

I think dividend stocks are going to grow in popular in the future. Any comment? I would appreciate more help from AAII in this area.


Martin from AZ posted over 3 years ago:

I have many DRiPS, but Computershare, BNYMellon, etc. charge too much for the joy of owning them.


Peter from OH posted over 3 years ago:

I took my Glaxo Smith Kline stock out of the DRIP because it charged $15 quarterly. I put the stock in my Schwab account. No fees, automatic dividend reinvestment. GSK pays 5.14% annually in quarterly payments.


Rosmary from IL posted over 2 years ago:

This article has been very helpful in my
research as a beginning investor. Thank you,


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