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Last week seven dividend-paying stocks received upgrades from analysts. Five of these stocks were awarded a buy rating by the respective analyst. Most of these recent upgrades are based on improving outlook and fundamentals. We have listed the reason for the upgrade and the new price target when it was made available by the investment firm. Each of these stocks has a dividend yield of 2% or more.

General Growth Properties (NYSE:GGP)

General Growth Properties was upgraded by UBS from Neutral to Buy on May 10th with a price target of $20 per share. UBS said the upgrade was based on confidence in new management, solid balance sheet and growth potential. GGP has a dividend yield of 2.2% and because it is a REIT we are not concerned with the payout ratio. The company started paying dividends in the first quarter of 2011.

Hershey (NYSE:HSY)

Hershey was upgraded by Argus from a Hold to a Buy on May 9th with a price target of $78 per share. Argus cited improving growth prospects following the Q1 report as the reason for the upgrade. HSY has a dividend yield of 2.1% and a payout ratio of 49%. The company has increased its dividend for 37 years and has a 5-year dividend growth rate of 6.1%.

American Science and Engineering (NASDAQ:ASEI)

American Science and Engineering was upgraded by The Benchmark Company on May 8th from a Sell rating to a Hold with a price target of $66 per share. Benchmark said the upgrade was based on improving prospects and balance sheet. This makes it a hold but there is still risk in the services and support business. ASEI has a dividend yield of 2.4% and a payout ratio of 44%. The company has increased its dividend for 2 consecutive years and has a 5-year dividend growth rate of 30%.

EXCO Resources (NYSE:XCO)

EXCO was upgraded by KeyBanc Capital Markets from a Hold to a Buy on May 8th with a price target of $10 per share. KeyBanc said the upgrade was based on valuation, the pending divestiture of TGGT asset, and potential opportunistic acquisitions. XCO has a dividend yield of 2.1% and has negative EPS so a payout ratio cannot be calculated. The company has increased its dividend for 2 years.

National Retail Properties (NYSE:NNN)

National Retail Properties was upgraded by FBR Capital from Market Perform to Outperform on May 8th with a price target of $30 per share. FBR said the upgrade was based on the strong Q1 report and increased acquisition guidance. NNN has a dividend yield of 5.6%. Because it is a REIT we are not focused on the payout ratio. NNN has increased its dividend for 19 consecutive years and has a 5-year dividend growth rate of 2.5%.

NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX)

NYSE Euronext was upgraded by Stifel Nicolaus from a Sell to a Hold on May 8th. Stifel Nicolaus said the upgrade was based on valuation and mentioned that the current trading weakness is priced in. NYX has a dividend yield of 4.7% and a payout ratio of 57%. The company has not increased its dividend since 2008.

Newell Rubbermaid (NYSE:NWL)

Newell Rubbermaid was upgraded by Oppenheimer from Perform to Outperform on May 7th with a price target of $23 per share. Oppenheimer said the upgrade was based on multi-year growth potential. NWL has a dividend yield of 2.2% and a payout ratio of 76%. The company has increased its dividend for 2 consecutive years.

Source: 5 Dividend Stocks To Buy, 2 To Stop Selling