3 Under-Followed Dividend Growth Stocks

Includes: CBSH, ERIE, NJR
by: Tim Plaehn

Last week I wrote an article titled The Seeking Alpha Interest Index: What's Hot, What's Not? discussing the range of interest in different stocks on Seeking Alpha, using the number of email subscribers as an indicator. My research revealed there are hundreds of stocks with little following, while companies like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) are tracked by tens of thousands of email subscribers.

To bring a few of these under-followed stocks to light, here are three companies with histories of regular dividend increases. Each of the three has increased the dividend annually for at least 10 consecutive years. Also, all three are way down the list of over 1,000 stocks for which I have Seeking Alpha email subscription data. For example, there are over 1,000 stocks more popular with Seeking Alpha readers than the first company discussed here.

Erie Indemnity Company (NASDAQ:ERIE) provides underwriting and administrative services to Erie Insurance Exchange. The two groups together act as a property and casualty insurance company with a small life insurance subsidiary. ERIE receives a management fee equal to 25 percent of written premium and participates with a minority interest in the underwriting results of the Exchange. Right through the recession the company has been able to grow premiums each year and maintain an impressive combined ratio in the 95 percent range. Diluted net income for the last three years has been $1.89, $2.85 and $3.08 per share respectively. The Erie Indemnity dividend has been increased each year for at least 15 years. To start 2012, the rate increased to 55.25 cents quarterly from the previous 51.5 cents. Current dividend yield is 2.9 percent.

Commerce Bancshares (NASDAQ:CBSH) puts a twist into dividend investing. This 140-year old midwest banking company has a history of growing cash dividends going back at least 25 years. In addition, each year since 1995 the company has paid a 5 percent stock dividend or put another way, annual 21 for 20 stock splits. A look at the financials shows a nicely profitable company with profits increasing in most years. The current yield on the cash dividend is 2.3 percent with a 31 percent payout ratio.

New Jersey Resources (NYSE:NJR) divides its business into a regulated public utility delivering natural gas, a midstream gas delivery and wholesale company and a provider of renewable energy, selling commercial and residential solar projects. About 60 to 70 percent of net income is from the regulated utility -- New Jersey Natural Gas. New Jersey Resources has increased the annual dividend for 17 consecutive years. The most recent increase was a 5.6 percent hike of the quarterly payout in November 2011. The current dividend yield on the stock is 3.4 percent.

Digging into the less followed stocks takes some time. I went through about 20 dividend-paying companies with records of dividend growth to find these three. I think each has very interesting merits to be included in an investor's dividend income portfolio.

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