3 Ex-Dividend Stocks With Buy Ratings

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The following stocks go ex-dividend Thursday, meaning an investor must purchase the shares Wednesday to qualify for the next dividend payment: American Campus Communities ( ACC), W.W. Grainger ( GWW) and National Instruments ( NATI).

The three stocks received a buy rating from TheStreet Ratings.

See the complete Dividend Calendar.

American Campus Communities

The student housing company is scheduled to report fourth-quarter results on Feb. 14. Analysts, on average, expect earnings of 49 cents a share on revenue of $91.67 million.

American Campus Communities announced last month that it acquired $208 million of assets in Austin and College Park, Maryland which would add 1,927 beds.

"For 4Q, our core assumptions call for flat occupancy, 3.0% effectiverent growth, and 2.5% expense growth as ACC completes the first full Q of the2011/2012 school year," Deutsche Bank analysts wrote in a Jan. 25 report. "In conjunction with 3Q earnings, ACC announced an initial SS rent increase for the 2012/2013 academic year of 3.4%, ahead of last year's +2.7% initial increase and the +3.0% final fall 2011 rate increase. Overall, ACC has done a solid job on the leasing front and, going into the call, we'll be looking for an update on the current leasing environment."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 3.1%

American Campus Communities has an estimated price-to-earnings ratio of 29.9 for next year. The average for residential REITs is 68.06. American Campus has the lowest forward P/E among its peers.

Rated "B- (Buy)" by TheStreet Ratings: The company's third-quarter gross profit margin decreased from the previous year.

In the third quarter, stockholders' net worth increased 7.66% from the prior year.

TheStreet Ratings' price target is $55.99. The stock closed Tuesday at $44.03; it has risen 4.93% year to date.

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W.W. Grainger

The facilities maintenance products company last month reported first-quarter earnings of $148.5 million, or $2.04 a share. A year earlier, Grainger earned $132.2 million, or $1.83 a share.

"Grainger management reiterated 2012 year guidance of $9.90-$10.65 and company-wide sales growth of 10-14%," Morgan Keegan analysts wrote in a Jan. 26 report. "Furthermore, sales trends during the first three weeks of January are tracking at mid-teen's levels, an attractive snapback from a December month which was hindered by difficult oil spill response and seasonal products sales comparisons. With that said, we are reducing our 2012 estimate from $10.59 to $10.36 (old consensus: $10.39) and 2013 from $11.96 to $11.81. Our estimate changes primarily reflect increased unallocated corporate expense assumptions. Additionally, our revenue growth projection stands at 11.0%, levels 100 bps below the mid-point of management guidance."

Morgan Keegan has an outperform rating on W.W. Grainger. Of the 17 analysts who cover Grainger, nine rated the company a hold. Seven analysts gave the stock a buy rating and one considered it a sell.

Grainger has a forward P/E of 16.85. The average for industrial supplier companies is 16.95. Applied Industrial ( AIT) has a forward P/E of 15.06.

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 1.3%

Rated "A+ (Buy)" by TheStreet Ratings: The price target from TheStreet Ratings is $257.66. The stock closed Tuesday at $201.85; it has increased 7.83% year to date.


National Instruments

The automation products company reported last month fourth-quarter earnings of $24.3 million, or 20 cents a share. National Instruments earned $38 million, or 32 cents a share, a year earlier.

"The 4Q11 result was already pre-announced, but management's guiding 1Q12 below normal seasonality and significantly below the street will result in a big modelreset," Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a Jan. 31 report. "While this should pressure the stock, we see support from two sources that we believe will keep the stock range-bound: (1) investors will likely look to the C13 recovery year for "realistic" valuation, and (2) a dividend hike brings the yield to approximately 2%."

National Instruments has a forward P/E of 18.33. The average among electronic equipment companies is 21.09. Zebra Technologies ( ZBRA) has a forward P/E of 15.15.

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 2%

Rated "B (Buy)" by TheStreet Ratings: The company's fourth-quarter gross profit margin was basically the same from the previous year.

National Instruments is extremely liquid. Its Quick Ratio is 2.35, which shows that the company can meet its short-term cash needs.

In the fourth quarter, stockholders' net worth increased 14.43% from the prior year.

TheStreet Ratings' price target is $32.28. The stock closed Tuesday at $27.30; the stock has increased 5.2% year to date.

Find out which stocks have the highest dividend yields.

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-- Written by Alexandra Zendrian

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