This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Small Cap Dividend Growers Still Packing a Punch

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I've long been a proponent of stock screening in order to not only generate specific ideas, but also to try and identify groups of stocks with particular attributes that may demonstrate the ability to outperform the market. These are not always successful over time, but it is still worth the effort because there is much to be learned.

The past few years, I've run a stock screen early each January designed to identify smaller companies that have a strong record of dividend growth, and also appear to have the wherewithal to continue raising their dividends in the future. The level of yield here is not of great concern to me, as this is not meant to be an income generation strategy.

The focus on growing dividends is due to the fact that I've long been a believer that dividends represent more than just cash that is returned to shareholders. In my view, when companies raise their dividend year in and year out, it can be a good indicator not only of financial health, but also of confident management. Furthermore, you can't fake dividends. Companies can manipulate earnings, but with dividends, what you see is what you get. There is also a built-in system of checks and balances; companies that raise their payouts to the point of unsustainability ultimately risk having to cut their dividends, which is rarely, if ever, viewed positively by the markets.

The search criteria that I employ for this strategy includes the following parameters:

  • Market caps between $500 million and $2 billion
  • Dividend increases in at least each of the past five years
  • Long term debt to equity ratios below 50%
  • Dividend payout ratios below 50% for the trailing 12 months, and last two fiscal years

In January, 27 companies made the cut, and the group is up an average of 13.54% versus a gain of 12.15% for the Russell 2000 Index, and 13.47% for the S&P600 Small Cap Index since that column ran. That is certainly not great relative performance year to date, but given the history of this search it is compelling enough to continue studying it. In the past, this search has performed better on a relative basis when markets are flat or down. Two years ago (the class of January 2011), for instance, the 18 qualifiers returned an average of 13%, while the Russell 2000 was down 0.6% and the S&P 600 was up 4.3%. Hopefully we won't get to test that theory in the near future.

1 of 2

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 16,945.22 -138.58 -0.81%
S&P 500 1,977.45 -10.53 -0.53%
NASDAQ 4,446.3050 -25.8030 -0.58%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs