8 Ex-Dividend Stocks With Buy Ratings

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The following stocks go ex-dividend Wednesday, meaning an investor must purchase the shares Tuesday to qualify for the next dividend payment: Staples ( SPLS), InterContinental Hotels Group ( IHG), Coventry Health Care ( CVH), Advance Auto Parts ( AAP), Piedmont Natural Gas ( PNY), Heartland Express ( HTLD), World Fuel Services ( INT) and Iron Mountain ( IRM).

Each of the stocks received a buy rating from TheStreet Ratings.

Staples

The office retailer raised its quarterly dividend 10% to 11 cents a share. The dividend is payable on April 12.

"Shares have run up on a better labor outlook only to retreat each time," Jefferies analysts wrote in a March 1 report. "The stock is stuck in a range until we see a few changes, including a stabilization of international sales and margin, clearer signs of underlying improvement in NA beyond weather and improvement in labor. Staples remains challenged by a low growth environment, secular headwinds and excess capacity with occasional irrational behavior from competitors."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 2.7%

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

Staples has weak liquidity. Its Quick Ratio is 0.81, which demonstrates a lack of ability to meet its short-term cash needs.

In the fourth quarter, stockholders' net worth increased 1.02% from the prior year.

TheStreet Ratings' price target is $19.05. The stock closed Monday at $16.46 and has risen 18.5% year to date.

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InterContinental Hotels Group

The hotel company is starting its first upscale hotel chain in China; it will be called HUALUXE Hotels and Resorts.

"Even though IHG has a solid business model, and despite its strong presence in America, the company is not immune to the lack of visibility on the hotels market," Societe Generale analysts wrote in a report Monday. "The latter doesn't seem discounted at this stage, whereas growth prospects do."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 3.2%

Rated "A- (Buy)" by TheStreet Ratings: The company's fourth-quarter gross profit margin was about the same as it was last year.

InterContinental Hotels Group has weak liquidity. Its Quick Ratio is 0.66, which demonstrates a lack of ability to meet its short-term cash needs.

In the fourth quarter, stockholders' net worth increased 92.6% from the prior year.

TheStreet Ratings' price target is $26.78. The stock closed Monday at $23.27 and has risen 29.35% year to date.


Coventry Health Care

The managed health care company reported last month fourth-quarter earnings of $85.7 million, or 61 cents a share, down from year-earlier earnings of $150.3 million, or $1.02.

"This morning, in a somewhat unexpected move, CVH announced that it is instituting a quarterly dividend of $0.125/share, representing a dividend yield of 1.5% and a payout ratio of about 16%," Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts wrote in a March 12 report. "As a reminder, managed care companies began instituting meaningful quarterly dividends starting with UNH in May 2010, and AET, HUM, WLP and, now, CVH have since followed suit (average yield of 1.4%). We view the announcement as a positive for CVH, as the dividend puts it in line with peers on the yield front, while still leaving significant upside from M&A and share repurchase (we estimate CVH could deploy 24% of its market cap in 2012)."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 1.5%

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

Coventry Health Care has average liquidity. Its Quick Ratio is 1.14, which shows the company can technically meet its short-term cash needs.

In the fourth quarter, stockholders' net worth increased 7.42% from the prior year.

TheStreet Ratings' price target is $41.32. The stock closed Monday at $33.72 and has risen 11.03% year to date.

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Advance Auto Parts

The car parts retailer reported last month fourth-quarter earnings of $66.4 million, or 92 cents a share, up from year-earlier earnings of $48.1 million, or 58 cents.

"We continue to be buyers of AAP shares and are raising our price target to $96 reflecting 14x our 2013 estimate," Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a Feb. 17 report. "The bottom line is that Q4 results and the improvement AAP has demonstrated in 2011 lends credence to consistent and solid earnings growth in 2012 and beyond for this attractively valued company."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 0.3%

Rated "A+ (Buy)" by TheStreet Ratings: The company's fourth-quarter gross profit margin was about the same as last year.

Advance Auto Parts has very weak liquidity. Its Quick Ratio is 0.09, which demonstrates a lack of ability to meet its short-term cash needs.

In the fourth quarter, stockholders' net worth decreased 18.42% from the prior year.

TheStreet Ratings' price target is $103.08. The stock closed Monday at $88.50 and has risen 27.1% year to date.


Piedmont Natural Gas

The natural gas distribution company reported earlier this month first-quarter earnings of $76.2 million, or $1.05 a share, down from year-earlier earnings of $84.4 million, or $1.16 a share.

"Lower than expected results were primarily driven by warmer than normal weather, which negatively impacted wholesale marketing margins and residential and commercial volumes in SC and TN," Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts wrote in a report on Sunday. "We were surprised at the degree of impact to PNY's utility results from the warmer than normal weather given PNY has weather normalization adjustments (WNA) mechanisms in SC and TN."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 3.8%

Rated "A- (Buy)" by TheStreet Ratings: The company's first-quarter gross profit margin increased from the previous year.

Piedmont Natural Gas has very weak liquidity. Its Quick Ratio is 0.25, which demonstrates a lack of ability to meet its short-term cash needs.

In the first quarter, stockholders' net worth increased 1.43% from the prior year.

TheStreet Ratings' price target is $37.17. The stock closed Monday at $31.65 and has fallen 6.86% year to date.

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Heartland Express

The trucking company was upgraded to buy from hold by TheStreet Ratings on Feb. 17.

"HTLD did a solid job of controlling rising cost as it generated a 79.5% OR (87.0% net of gains on sales) despite a mediocre freight environment," Deutsche Bank analysts wrote in a Jan. 23 report. "HTLD is Hold-rated as we see a balanced risk/reward equation at current levels."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 0.5%

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

Heartland Express is extremely liquid. Its Quick Ratio is 4.04, which shows the company can meet its short-term cash needs.

In the fourth quarter, stockholders' net worth increased 1.97% from the prior year.

TheStreet Ratings' price target is $17.53. The stock closed Monday at $15.05 and has risen 5.32% year to date.


World Fuel Services

The fuel company reported last month fourth-quarter earnings of $50 million, or 70 cents a share, up from year-ago earnings of $39.4 million, or 57 cents.

"INT posted a solid quarter under a backdrop which was negatively impacted by oil product price volatility and a reduction in military work," Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a Feb. 24 report. "While oil price volatility has historically benefitted INT, the abnormalinversion on the spread between jet fuel and heating oil negatively impacted Q4. We expect the negative impact from this spread to unwind in Q1 but less military work (low volumes, but high margins) should partially offset the normalization of the jet fuel/heating oil spread. Bottom line - the long term story remains intact we are increasing our target price to $56 (from $46)."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 0.4%

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

World Fuel Services has average liquidity. Its Quick Ratio is 1.17, which shows the company can technically meet its short-term cash needs.

In the fourth quarter, stockholders' net worth increased 18.25% from the prior year.

TheStreet Ratings' price target is $56.10. The stock closed Monday at $42.42 and has risen 1.05% year to date.

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Iron Mountain

"We view IRM as a defensive steady name with REIT optionality over the next few months," JPMorgan analysts wrote in a Feb. 24 report. "We maintain our Dec '12 price target of $37, based on 10x our EV/EBITDA (2013) estimate."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 3.4%

Rated "B (Buy)" by TheStreet Ratings: The company's fourth-quarter gross profit margin was about the same as it was last year.

Iron Mountain has weak liquidity. Its Quick Ratio is 0.90, which demonstrates a lack of ability to meet its short-term cash needs.

In the fourth quarter, stockholders' net worth decreased 36.3% from the prior year.

TheStreet Ratings' price target is $37.09. The stock closed Monday at $29.33 and has declined 4.77% year to date.

-- Written by Alexandra Zendrian

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