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

We ran a screen on dividend stocks paying dividend yields above 1% and sustainable payout ratios below 50% for those with positive trends in inventory: 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. To access a complete analysis of this list's recent performance, click here.

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

List sorted by difference between growth in revenue and inventory.

1. CAE Inc. (NYSE:CAE): Designs, manufactures, and supplies simulation equipment and services; and develops integrated training solutions to the military, commercial airlines, business aircraft operators, aircraft manufacturers, and healthcare education and service providers worldwide. Market cap of $2.52B. Dividend yield at 1.61%, payout ratio at 23.31%. MRQ revenue has increased 11.73% ($433.5M vs. $388M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 62.38% ($142.5M vs. $378.8M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 40.56% to 13.52%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has lost 13.29% over the last year.

2. Murphy Oil Corporation (NYSE:MUR): Engages in the exploration and production of oil and gas properties worldwide. Market cap of $10.39B. Dividend yield at 2.05%, payout ratio at 20.67%. MRQ revenue has increased 39.23% ($7,240.44M vs. $5,200.33M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 23.83% ($638.7M vs. $838.47M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 24.26% to 14.32%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has lost 22.04% over the last year.

3. IAMGOLD Corp. (NYSE:IAG): Engages in the exploration, development, and production of mineral resource properties worldwide. Market cap of $7.08B. Dividend yield at 1.06%, payout ratio at 16.74%. MRQ revenue has increased 84.02% ($431.89M vs. $234.7M y/y) while MRQ inventory has increased 24.29% ($253.72M vs. $204.13M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 46.56% to 17.11%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 7.64% over the last week.

4. Compass Minerals International Inc. (NYSE:CMP): Produces and markets inorganic mineral products primarily in North America and the United Kingdom. Market cap of $2.39B. Dividend yield at 2.48%, payout ratio at 35.54%. MRQ revenue has increased 30.17% ($229.1M vs. $176M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 23.38% ($185.8M vs. $242.5M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 55.90% to 40.53%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has lost 15.89% over the last year.

5. Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE:VLO): Operates as an independent petroleum refining and marketing company. Market cap of $11.69B. Dividend yield at 2.87%, payout ratio at 5.06%. MRQ revenue has increased 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 is currently stuck in a downtrend, trading 7.27% below its SMA20, 7.12% below its SMA50, and 14.5% below its SMA200. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 5.61% over the last week.

6. EQT Corporation (NYSE:EQT): Operates as an integrated energy company in the United States. Market cap of $8.48B. Dividend yield at 1.55%, payout ratio at 28.45%. MRQ revenue has increased 30.85% ($336.72M vs. $257.33M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 17.54% ($138.01M vs. $167.37M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 21.79% to 14.24%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 7.54% over the last week.

7. AO Smith Corp. (NYSE:AOS): Engages in the manufacture and sale of water heating equipment to the residential and commercial markets in the United States and internationally. Market cap of $1.77B. Dividend yield at 1.67%, payout ratio at 22.06%. MRQ revenue has increased 9.17% ($412M vs. $377.4M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 34.21% ($176.7M vs. $268.6M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 30.65% to 14.40%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has lost 7.47% over the last year.

8. Cleco Corporation (NYSE:CNL): Engages in the generation, transmission, distribution, and sale of electricity in Louisiana. Market cap of $2.17B. Dividend yield at 3.52%, payout ratio at 34.55%. MRQ revenue has increased 2.24% ($351.58M vs. $343.89M y/y) while MRQ inventory has decreased 33.34% ($90.33M vs. $135.51M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 30.04% to 17.01%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 5.6% (equivalent to 5.25 days of average volume). The stock has gained 21.54% over the last year.

9. Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX): Engages in petroleum, chemicals, mining, power generation, and energy operations worldwide. Market cap of $203.63B. Dividend yield at 3.17%, payout ratio at 22.20%. MRQ revenue has increased 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 gained 21.73% over the last year.

10. CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:CF): Manufactures and distributes nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer products, serving agricultural and industrial customers worldwide. Market cap of $9.28B. Dividend yield at 1.13%, payout ratio at 3.82%. MRQ revenue has increased 53.07% ($1,403.8M vs. $917.1M y/y) while MRQ inventory has increased 26.01% ($341.6M vs. $271.1M y/y). Inventory/current assets has decreased from 22.61% to 16.60%, comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30. The stock has performed poorly over the last month, losing 19.37%.

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

Source: 10 Dividend Stocks With Positive Inventory Trends