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One way to measure cash flow is by comparing it to common equity, the amount historically invested by stockholders. This can show how much stockholders’ investment is producing cash returns.

Here we ran a screen with that in mind, searching for companies with significant increases in operating cash flow to common equity, comparing the trailing-twelve-month figure to the 5-year average. Among this universe, we looked for those with significant net purchases from institutional investors.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the top six stocks mentioned below. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.

We also created a price-weighted index of the stocks mentioned below, and monitored the performance of the list relative to the S&P 500 index over the last month. To access a complete analysis of this list's recent performance, click here.

Do you think these stocks are producing fair returns for stockholders? Use this list as a starting-off point for your own analysis.

List sorted by institutional purchases as a percent of share float.

1. Central Pacific Financial Corp. (NYSE:CPF): Regional Banks Industry. Market cap of $579.35M. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 14.4M, which is 64.98% of the company's 22.16M share float. TTM operating cash flow/common equity at 0.86 vs. 5-year average at 0.34. The stock has lost 55.51% over the last year.

2. Optimer Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:OPTR): Biotechnology Industry. Market cap of $556.20M. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 5.2M, which is 12.36% of the company's 42.06M share float. TTM operating cash flow/common equity at 0.15 vs. 5-year average at -2.18. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 11.35% (equivalent to 5.29 days of average volume). It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 6.47% over the last week.

3. Entercom Communications Corp. (NYSE:ETM): Broadcasting Industry. Market cap of $308.74M. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 1.9M, which is 9.95% of the company's 19.10M share float. TTM operating cash flow/common equity at 0.63 vs. 5-year average at 0.22. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.68). The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 12.4% (equivalent to 15.26 days of average volume). The stock has performed poorly over the last month, losing 14.47%.

4. Libbey Inc. (NYSEMKT:LBY): Housewares & Accessories Industry. Market cap of $426.11M. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 1.6M, which is 8.45% of the company's 18.94M share float. TTM operating cash flow/common equity at 70.82 vs. 5-year average at 2.10. The stock has gained 18.39% over the last year.

5. Annaly Capital Management, Inc. (NYSE:NLY): REIT Industry. Market cap of $14.53B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 67.6M, which is 8.36% of the company's 808.74M share float. TTM operating cash flow/common equity at 1.27 vs. 5-year average at 0.80. The stock has gained 19.53% over the last year.

6. VeriFone Systems, Inc (NYSE:PAY): Business Equipment Industry. Market cap of $3.97B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 6.9M, which is 7.87% of the company's 87.62M share float. TTM operating cash flow/common equity at 0.69 vs. 5-year average at 0.45. The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 7.16% over the last week.

7. DineEquity, Inc. (NYSE:DIN): Restaurants Industry. Market cap of $962.48M. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 911.5K, which is 5.88% of the company's 15.49M share float. TTM operating cash flow/common equity at 3.04 vs. 5-year average at 0.93. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.36). The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 11.99% (equivalent to 12.09 days of average volume). The stock has gained 83.38% over the last year.

*Operating cash flow to common equity sourced from Screener.co, institutional data sourced from Fidelity, all other data sourced from Finviz.

Source: 7 Stocks With Strong Cash Flow Growth Being Bought by Institutions