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Whenever a company releases earnings data that beats analyst expectations, the stock will often rise in value to price in the good news. If you believe that company characteristics can cause EPS surprises to persist across time, this list may be very interesting to you.

We ran a screen on stocks paying dividend yields above 3% and sustainable payout ratios below 50%. We screened these stocks for those with a strong average of positive earnings surprises over the last four quarters.

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 income stocks will offer an opportunity for growth as well? Use this list as a starting point for your own analysis.

List sorted by average quarterly earnings surprise.

1. Aircastle LTD (AYR): Engages in the acquisition, lease, and sale of high-utility commercial jet aircraft to passenger and cargo airlines worldwide. Market cap of $784.02M. Dividend yield at 5.39%, payout ratio at 31.84%. In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.25 vs. estimate at 0.23 (surprise of 8.7%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.54 vs. estimate at 0.4 (surprise of 35%). In Jun 2011: Reported EPS at 0.3 vs. estimate at 0.21 (surprise of 42.9%). In Sep 2011: Reported 0.31 vs. estimate at 0.25 (surprise of 24%). [Average earnings surprise at 27.65%]. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.26). It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 5.73% over the last week.

2. McGrath Rentcorp (MGRC): Operates as a business-to-business rental company in the United States. Market cap of $638.49M. Dividend yield at 3.51%, payout ratio at 45.30%. In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.52 vs. estimate at 0.37 (surprise of 40.5%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.39 vs. estimate at 0.38 (surprise of 2.6%). In Jun 2011: Reported EPS at 0.46 vs. estimate at 0.35 (surprise of 31.4%). In Sep 2011: Reported 0.62 vs. estimate at 0.47 (surprise of 31.9%). [Average earnings surprise at 26.6%]. The stock has lost 5.35% over the last year.

3. Comtech Telecommunications Corp. (CMTL): Designs and produces a wide range of telecom systems and services. Market cap of $815.06M. Dividend yield at 3.71%, payout ratio at 38.64%. In Oct 2010: Reported EPS at 0.79 vs. estimate at 0.61 (surprise of 29.5%). In Jan 2011: Reported EPS at 0.52 vs. estimate at 0.4 (surprise of 30%). In Apr 2011: Reported EPS at 0.47 vs. estimate at 0.39 (surprise of 20.5%). In Jul 2011: Reported 0.42 vs. estimate at 0.37 (surprise of 13.5%). [Average earnings surprise at 23.38%]. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 10.34% over the last week.

4. E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DD): Chemicals Industry. Market cap of $41.59B. Dividend yield at 3.64%, payout ratio at 44.07%. In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.5 vs. estimate at 0.32 (surprise of 56.2%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 1.52 vs. estimate at 1.36 (surprise of 11.8%). In Jun 2011: Reported EPS at 1.37 vs. estimate at 1.34 (surprise of 2.2%). In Sep 2011: Reported 0.69 vs. estimate at 0.56 (surprise of 23.2%). [Average earnings surprise at 23.35%]. The stock has lost 0.88% over the last year.

5. First Financial Corp. (THFF): Provides various financial services. Market cap of $400.15M. Dividend yield at 3.09%, payout ratio at 34.56%. In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.64 vs. estimate at 0.5 (surprise of 28%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.67 vs. estimate at 0.52 (surprise of 28.8%). In Jun 2011: Reported EPS at 0.64 vs. estimate at 0.57 (surprise of 12.3%). In Sep 2011: Reported 0.75 vs. estimate at 0.63 (surprise of 19%). [Average earnings surprise at 22.02%]. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 8.43% over the last week.

6. International Paper Co. (IP): Operates as a paper and packaging company with operations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Russia, Asia, and north Africa. Market cap of $11.57B. Dividend yield at 3.97%, payout ratio at 27.17%. In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.68 vs. estimate at 0.65 (surprise of 4.6%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.74 vs. estimate at 0.59 (surprise of 25.4%). In Jun 2011: Reported EPS at 0.8 vs. estimate at 0.67 (surprise of 19.4%). In Sep 2011: Reported 0.92 vs. estimate at 0.8 (surprise of 15%). [Average earnings surprise at 16.1%]. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.16). It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 5.5% over the last week.

7. First Interstate Bancsystem Inc. (FIBK): Operates as the bank holding company for First Interstate Bank that provides commercial and consumer banking services. Market cap of $492.55M. Dividend yield at 3.93%, payout ratio at 18.65%. In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.23 vs. estimate at 0.17 (surprise of 35.3%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.2 vs. estimate at 0.18 (surprise of 11.1%). In Jun 2011: Reported EPS at 0.21 vs. estimate at 0.2 (surprise of 5%). In Sep 2011: Reported 0.26 vs. estimate at 0.23 (surprise of 13%). [Average earnings surprise at 16.1%]. The stock has performed poorly over the last month, losing 14.54%.

8. Intercontinental Hotels Group plc (IHG): Owns, manages, franchises, and leases hotels and resorts. Market cap of $4.70B. Dividend yield at 3.16%, payout ratio at 38.64%. In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.24 vs. estimate at 0.2 (surprise of 20%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.24 vs. estimate at 0.2 (surprise of 20%). In Jun 2011: Reported EPS at 0.35 vs. estimate at 0.32 (surprise of 9.4%). In Sep 2011: Reported 0.36 vs. estimate at 0.32 (surprise of 12.5%). [Average earnings surprise at 15.48%]. The stock has gained 0.68% over the last year.

9. Community Trust Bancorp Inc. (CTBI): Operates as the holding company for Community Trust Bank, Inc. Market cap of $417.38M. Dividend yield at 4.58%, payout ratio at 49.37%. In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.6 vs. estimate at 0.49 (surprise of 22.4%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.61 vs. estimate at 0.53 (surprise of 15.1%). In Jun 2011: Reported EPS at 0.58 vs. estimate at 0.57 (surprise of 1.8%). In Sep 2011: Reported 0.7 vs. estimate at 0.59 (surprise of 18.6%). [Average earnings surprise at 14.48%]. The stock has gained 0.56% over the last year.

10. Merchants Bancshares Inc. (MBVT): Operates as the bank holding company for The Merchants Bank that provides commercial banking products and services in Vermont. Market cap of $167.84M. Dividend yield at 4.16%, payout ratio at 49.01%. In Dec 2010: Reported EPS at 0.71 vs. estimate at 0.53 (surprise of 34%). In Mar 2011: Reported EPS at 0.5 vs. estimate at 0.49 (surprise of 2%). In Jun 2011: Reported EPS at 0.58 vs. estimate at 0.56 (surprise of 3.6%). In Sep 2011: Reported 0.67 vs. estimate at 0.58 (surprise of 15.5%). [Average earnings surprise at 13.78%]. The stock has gained 3.34% over the last year.

*Earnings surprise data sourced from Yahoo! Finance, all other data sourced from Finviz.

Source: 10 High Dividend Yield Stocks With A History Of Earnings Surprises