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When considering investments that offer dividends, it's clear that the stronger the company, the better the payouts. For our list of moderate to high yielding dividend stocks today, we focused on key characteristics that point to strength -- minimal debt and solid earnings. Negligible debt provides flexibility for the company's future, and also signals that assets have not been overly leveraged to fund growth. High levels of profitability provide assurance that those desirable yields will continue. If profitable dividend stocks that have maintained healthy debt ratios appeal to you, then you'll enjoy reviewing the list below.

The Long Term Debt/Equity Ratio is a variation of the traditional debt-to-equity ratio. This value computes the proportion of a company's long-term debt compared to its available capital. By using this ratio, investors can identify the amount of leverage utilized by a specific company and compare it to others to help analyze the company's risk exposure. Generally, companies that finance a greater portion of their capital via debt are considered riskier than those with lower leverage ratios.

The Debt/Equity Ratio illustrates how aggressively a company is financing its growth via debt. The more debt financing that is used in a capital structure, the more volatile earnings can become due to the additional interest expense. Should a company's potentially enhanced earnings fail to exceed the cost associated with debt financing over time, this can lead to substantial trouble.

The Operating Profit Margin is a profitability ratio that measures the effectiveness of the company's operating efficiency. This metric allows investors to see how much profit is left after all variable costs are covered. If the company's margin is increasing over time, this means that it's earning more per dollar of sales. Finding trends in the Operating Profit Margin helps investors identify companies that are improving profitability over time and managing the economic landscape better than their competitors.

Return on Assets (ROA) illustrates how much a company is generating in earnings from its assets alone. This metric gives investors a picture of how profitable the company is relative to the assets in current possession. As well, it lets investors see how efficient and effective management is at generating earnings from the company's assets. While most management teams can probably make money by throwing money at an issue, very few can make very large profits with little investment.

We first looked for dividend stocks. We next screened for businesses that operate with little to no long term debt (Long Term D/E Ratio<.1). From here, we then looked for companies that operate with little to no debt (D/E Ratio<.1). We next screened for businesses with strong profit margins (1-year operating margin>15%)(ROA [TTM]>10%). We did not screen out any market caps or sectors.

Do you think these stocks will go up in valuation? Use our screened list as a starting point for your own analysis.

1) Reed Elsevier PLC (RUK)

IndustryPublishing - Periodicals
Market Cap$11.61B

RUK stock chart

Key Metrics

Dividend Yield3.62%
Payout Ratio52.44%
Long Term Debt/Equity Ratio0.00
Debt/Equity Ratio0.00
Operating Profit Margin20.63%
Return on Assets44.93%
Short Interest0.02%

Reed Elsevier PLC provides professional information solutions worldwide. The company's Elsevier segment offers scientific, technical, and medical information solutions. Reed Elsevier PLC was founded in 1894 and is based in London, the United Kingdom.

2) Paychex, Inc. (NASDAQ:PAYX)

IndustryStaffing & Outsourcing Services
Market Cap$12.10B

PAYX stock chart

Key Metrics

Dividend Yield3.84%
Payout Ratio84.09%
Long Term Debt/Equity Ratio0.00
Debt/Equity Ratio0.00
Operating Profit Margin38.41%
Return on Assets10.32%
Short Interest3.72%

Paychex, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, provides payroll, human resources, and benefits outsourcing solutions for small to medium-sized businesses in the United States and Germany. The company offers payroll processing services that include the calculation, preparation, and delivery of employee payroll checks; production of internal accounting records and management reports; preparation of federal, state, and local payroll tax returns; and collection and remittance of clients' payroll obligations. As of May 31, 2012, it serviced approximately 567,000 payroll clients. The company was founded in 1971 and is headquartered in Rochester, New York.

3) Great Northern Iron Ore Properties (NYSE:GNI)

SectorBasic Materials
IndustrySteel & Iron
Market Cap$120.60M

GNI stock chart

Key Metrics

Dividend Yield18.03%
Payout Ratio89.47%
Long Term Debt/Equity Ratio0.00
Debt/Equity Ratio0.00
Operating Profit Margin86.49%
Return on Assets124.61%
Short Interest7.04%

Great Northern Iron Ore Properties, a conventional nonvoting trust, owns and leases mineral and non-mineral lands on the Mesabi Iron Range in northeastern Minnesota. It owns mineral interests in approximately 12,033 acres on the Mesabi Iron Range Formation, including approximately 9,895 acres of leased and 2,138 acres of unleased mineral interests. The company was founded in 1906 and is based in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

4) Reed Elsevier NV (NYSE:ENL)

IndustryPublishing - Periodicals
Market Cap$9.73B

ENL stock chart

Key Metrics

Dividend Yield4.34%
Payout Ratio56.51%
Long Term Debt/Equity Ratio0.00
Debt/Equity Ratio0.00
Operating Profit Margin21.09%
Return on Assets43.52%
Short Interest0.01%

Reed Elsevier NV provides professional information solutions to the science and medical, legal, risk management, and business to business sectors primarily in North America and Europe. Its Elsevier segment publishes scientific information books and journals in print and electronic forms for scientists, academic institutions, research leaders and administrators, corporations, and governments. It also publishes bibliographic data, indexes, and abstracts, as well as review and reference works; and provides abstract and citation database of research literature.

*Company profiles were sourced from Google Finance and Yahoo Finance. Financial data was sourced from Finviz on 10/01/2012.

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

Business relationship disclosure: This article was prepared for ZetaKap Media by one of our full-time analysts. We did not receive compensation for this article (other than from Seeking Alpha), and we have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.