Flowers Foods Raises Dividend by 17%

Bakery products maker

Flowers Foods

(FLO) - Get Report

said Friday that it is increasing its quarterly dividend payout by 17%. The Thomasville, Ga., company announced a new dividend payout of 17.5 cents per quarter or 70 cents annually.

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This hike represents a 17% increase over the previous quarterly payout of 15 cents per share and the sixth consecutive year the company has increased its dividend. The dividend will be payable July 2 to shareholders of record as of June 19. Flowers Foods shares rose 30 cents or 1.4% in morning trading Friday.

We had removed shares of Flowers from our "recommended" list back on Aug. 14 when the stock traded at $31.97. The company will now have a dividend yield of 3.37% based on the higher dividend payout and last night's closing stock price of $20.80. The stock is nearing technical support at the 52-week lows of $20.

If that fails to hold, we see the next area of support in the $14 to $17 price area. If the shares can rebound here, we see overhead resistance around the $24.50-26.00 levels. We like the dividend increase, but we would remain on the sidelines for now. Flowers holds a Dividend.com DARS Rating of 3.2 out of 5 stars.

Dell First-Quarter Net Falls 63% as Sales Slump Continues

Personal computer-maker

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

said late Thursday that its first-quarter profit plunged 63% from the previous year, hurt by lagging PC sales, but cost cuts helped the company beat Wall Street profit estimates.

The Round Rock, Texas, company reported first-quarter net income of $290 million or 15 cents a share, down from $784 million or 38 cents per share in the year-ago period. Excluding one-time restructuring charges, the company posted adjusted earnings of 24 cents per share while overall revenue fell 23% from last year to $12.3 billion. On average, Wall Street analysts expected net income of 22 cents per share on higher revenue of $12.6 billion.

The consumer crunch has hit computer-makers like Dell hard. The company said that desktop PC sales revenue fell 34% from last year to $3.2 billion, while Laptop sales fell 20% to $3.9 billion. Server sales plunged 25% to $1.3 billion. Dell's services unit revenue also fell by 8%, to $1.2 billion in the latest quarter.

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Despite the big sales drops, Dell said its gross margin was 17.6%, only modestly smaller than 18.4% last year. Following its recent trend, the company declined to offer guidance for the upcoming second quarter. Dell shares rose 30 cents or 2.6% in morning trading Friday.

Shares of Dell are off 52-week highs of $25 a share. The stock has technical support in the $8.00 to $9.50 price area. If the shares can hold up, we see overhead resistance around the $12 to $13 price levels. We do not currently rate this non-dividend paying stock, but we do follow the former tech highflier very closely.

J. Crew First-Quarter Net Falls 33%, but Easily Beats Estimates

Apparel-maker

J. Crew

( JCG) said Thursday that its first-quarter profit fell 33% from last year, but results blew away analysts' estimates. The New York City-based company reported first-quarter net income of $20.4 million or 32 cents per share, compared with $30.5 million or 48 cents per share in the year-ago period. Revenue rose 1.5% to $345.8 million from $340.6 million.

On average, Wall Street analysts expected much lower profits of 10 cents per share on revenue of $322.1 million.

J. Crew said that combined same-store sales fell 5% in the latest quarter. Same-store sales are considered a key indicator of a retailer's health, since they measure the performance of stores open at least one year. Looking ahead, the company forecast second quarter earnings of 8 cents to 12 cents per share, while analysts has expected a loss of 2 cents per share. J. Crew shares rose $3.58 or 17.5% in morning trading Friday.

Shares of J. Crew are way off 52-week highs of $47 a share. The stock has technical support in the $14 to $15 price area. If the shares can build on this morning's price spike, we see the next level of overhead resistance around the $25 to $29 price levels. We do not currently rate this non-dividend paying stock, but we do follow the company closely.

Morgan Stanley Upgraded by Analyst

Financial giant

Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Report

caught an upgrade from one analyst before the bell Friday, helping send its shares upward. Robert Lee, an analyst with

Keefe, Bruyette & Woods

upgraded Morgan Stanley to "outperform," setting a price target of $35 for the stock.

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Lee cited an improving economic environment, combined with growth potential stemming from Morgan Stanley's merger with fellow wealth manager

Smith Barney

. Previously, Lee rated Morgan Stanley as "market perform" with a price target of $28 for the stock. Lee said that he expects the company to post full-year 2009 earnings of $1 per share, and $3.30 per share in 2010.

Morgan Stanley shares rose 56 cents or 1.9% in morning trading Friday.

We had removed shares of Morgan Stanley from our "recommended" list back on Aug. 12, when the stock was trading at $45.39. The company has a dividend yield of 0.92%, based on last night's closing stock price of $29.43.

The stock has technical support in the $22 to $25 price area. If the shares can continue their recent ascent, we see the next level of overhead resistance around the $35 price mark. We would remain on the sidelines for now. Morgan Stanley holds a Dividend.com DARS Rating of 3.1 out of 5 stars.

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At the time of publication, the author had no positions in stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.

Tom Reese and Paul Rubillo are senior editors of Dividend.com. Visit Dividend.com for more dividend stock ratings, picks, news, and analysis for long-term and income-seeking investors.