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For a look into a company’s sales trends, one idea is to consider the growth in inventory over time. Comparing this to growth in revenue could show some interesting results.

We ran a screen on dividend stocks of the S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) for those with positive trends in inventory, with growth in quarterly revenue outpacing growth in quarterly inventory year-over-year. We also screened for companies with quarterly inventory decreasing as a percent of current assets.

To understand why these trends are positive, think of why the opposite trends would be negative. If revenue were growing slower than inventory, it may indicate that the company is having trouble selling its inventory – although this could just indicate inventory building or a change in sales policies.

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.

(Click chart for more detail)

Do you think these companies have strong sales trends? Use this list as a starting point for your own analysis.

List sorted by dividend yield.

1. Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE:LLY): Develops, manufactures, and sells pharmaceutical products worldwide. Market cap of $41.99B. Dividend yield at 5.40%, payout ratio at 48.65%. MRQ revenue has grown 8.72% ($6,147.9M vs. $5,654.8M year/year) while MRQ inventory has decreased 6.21% ($2,513.3M vs. $2,679.6M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 18.89% to 17.25%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has gained 12.96% over the last year.

2. Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT): Engages in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration, operation, and sustainment of advanced technology systems and products in the areas of defense, space, intelligence, homeland security, and government information technology in the United States and internationally. Market cap of $25.24B. Dividend yield at 5.13%, payout ratio at 48.86%. MRQ revenue has grown 6.84% ($12,119M vs. $11,343M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 14.52% ($1,789M vs. $2,093M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 15.02% to 12.20%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-25 to 3 months ending 2010-09-26. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 6.6% (equivalent to 7.97 days of average volume). The stock has gained 17.77% over the last year.

3. Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. (NYSE:DPS): Engages in the manufacture and distribution of non-alcoholic beverages in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Market cap of $7.65B. Dividend yield at 3.59%, payout ratio at 45.17%. MRQ revenue has grown 4.94% ($1,529M vs. $1,457M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 8.13% ($260M vs. $283M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 21.79% to 15.34%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has gained 0.59% over the last year.

4. Molex Inc. (NASDAQ:MOLX): Manufactures and sells electronic components worldwide. Market cap of $4.09B. Dividend yield at 3.44%, payout ratio at 43.24%. MRQ revenue has grown 4.27% ($935.99M vs. $897.67M y/y) while MRQ inventory has increased 0.07% ($547.21M vs. $546.81M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 29.54% to 26.42%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has performed poorly over the last month, losing 10.12%.

5. Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX): Engages in petroleum, chemicals, mining, power generation, and energy operations worldwide. Market cap of $190.72B. Dividend yield at 3.38%, payout ratio at 22.20%. MRQ revenue has grown 29.59% ($64,432M vs. $49,718M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 1.06% ($6,072M vs. $6,137M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 13.80% to 11.45%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has performed poorly over the last month, losing 11.42%.

6. Molson Coors Brewing Company (NYSE:TAP): Distributes beer brands. Market cap of $7.02B. Dividend yield at 3.30%, payout ratio at 31.45%. MRQ revenue has grown 9.07% ($954.4M vs. $875M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 12.87% ($201.1M vs. $230.8M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 12.42% to 10.07%, comparing 13 weeks ending 2011-09-24 to 13 weeks ending 2010-09-25. The stock has lost 17.64% over the last year.

7. Emerson Electric Co. (NYSE:EMR): Operates as a diversified manufacturing and technology company. Market cap of $36.15B. Dividend yield at 3.26%, payout ratio at 42.34%. MRQ revenue has grown 12.05% ($6,545M vs. $5,841M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 0.24% ($2,100M vs. $2,105M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 25.17% to 22.47%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has lost 8.8% over the last year.

8. Wisconsin Energy Corp. (NYSE:WEC): Engages in the generation, distribution, and sale of electric energy and steam. Market cap of $7.40B. Dividend yield at 3.25%, payout ratio at 43.57%. MRQ revenue has grown 8.18% ($1,052.8M vs. $973.2M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 12.83% ($368.1M vs. $422.3M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 35.53% to 32.51%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has gained 10.34% over the last year.

9. Lexmark International Inc. (NYSE:LXK): Develops, manufactures, and supplies printing and imaging solutions for offices. Market cap of $2.41B. Dividend yield at 3.12%, payout ratio at 5.54%. MRQ revenue has grown 1.49% ($1,034.9M vs. $1,019.7M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 12.32% ($343.6M vs. $391.9M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 17.49% to 14.99%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has lost 12.44% over the last year.

10. The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD): Operates as a home improvement retailer. Market cap of $58.35B. Dividend yield at 3.11%, payout ratio at 42.38%. MRQ revenue has grown 4.39% ($17,326M vs. $16,598M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 2.51% ($10,717M vs. $10,993M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 72.92% to 69.24%, comparing 13 weeks ending 2011-10-30 to 13 weeks ending 2010-10-31. The stock has gained 25.17% over the last year.

11. Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE:HON): Operates as a diversified technology and manufacturing company worldwide. Market cap of $39.96B. Dividend yield at 2.88%, payout ratio at 40.04%. MRQ revenue has grown 14.24% ($9,298M vs. $8,139M y/y) while MRQ inventory has increased 8.49% ($4,369M vs. $4,027M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 26.56% to 25.63%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has gained 6.14% over the last year.

12. Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE:VLO): Operates as an independent petroleum refining and marketing company. Market cap of $11.86B. Dividend yield at 2.83%, payout ratio at 5.06%. MRQ revenue has grown 60.42% ($33,713M vs. $21,015M y/y) while MRQ inventory has increased 7.49% ($5,164M vs. $4,804M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 40.45% to 32.54%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has performed poorly over the last month, losing 18.75%.

13. PPG Industries Inc. (NYSE:PPG): Manufactures and supplies protective and decorative coatings. Market cap of $12.75B. Dividend yield at 2.76%, payout ratio at 33.03%. MRQ revenue has grown 11.24% ($3,849M vs. $3,460M y/y) while MRQ inventory has increased 6.04% ($1,737M vs. $1,638M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 25.98% to 25.03%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has gained 8.93% over the last year.

14. Colgate-Palmolive Co. (NYSE:CL): Manufactures and markets consumer products worldwide. Market cap of $42.73B. Dividend yield at 2.63%, payout ratio at 44.15%. MRQ revenue has grown 11.16% ($4,383M vs. $3,943M y/y) while MRQ inventory has increased 4.54% ($1,336M vs. $1,278M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 31.24% to 30.07%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has gained 17.47% over the last year.

15. United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX): Provides technology products and services to the building systems and aerospace industries worldwide. Market cap of $66.27B. Dividend yield at 2.63%, payout ratio at 34.03%. MRQ revenue has grown 8.69% ($14,804M vs. $13,620M y/y) while MRQ inventory has increased 2.22% ($8,617M vs. $8,430M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 33.27% to 32.61%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has gained 0.08% over the last year.

*Accounting data sourced from Google Finance, all other data sourced from Finviz.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Source: 15 S&P 500 Dividend Stocks With Positive Inventory Trends