Ex-Dividend Stocks: Costco, Hershey

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: Costco ( COST), Hershey ( HSY), Carnival ( CCL), Atmos Energy ( ATO), Equifax ( EFX), Nu Skin ( NUS), Robert Half International ( RHI), Scotts Miracle Gro ( SMG) and Talisman Energy ( TLM).

Costco

The membership warehouse company is scheduled to report its third-quarter earnings on May 24. Analysts, on average, anticipate earnings of 87 cents a share on revenue of $22.13 billion.

"Following COST's monthly sales data for the majority of Q3 and NRSE's retail sales data for the first week of May, we are raising our Q3 comp estimate to +5% (from +4%) and our EPS to $0.87 (from $0.85)," Piper Jaffray analysts wrote in a May 14 report. "We believe COST earnings will be supported by increase in the membership fee income as well as the approach of an inflection point in gross margin in the November quarter. In addition, the recent pullback leaves COST very attractive from a valuation standpoint, in our view. COST is currently trading at 17.6x FY13E EPS, net cash of $7.98/share, and below its 19.7x average over the last ten years. We recommend buying shares on the recent pullback and ahead of the quarter."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 1.2%

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Hershey

The chocolate company reported on April 24 first-quarter earnings of $198.7 million, or 87 cents a share, up from year-earlier earnings of $160.1 million, or 70 cents.

"Buy HSY to be rewarded by above consensus earnings progression over the next two years," Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a May 16 report. "We raise our FY13/FY14 EPS estimates to $3.66/$4.00, from $3.59/$3.71, 1%/4%/6% ahead of the Street. Our path to $4 in 2014 anticipates abatement of input cost inflation in FY13, a return to normalized category growth in North America next year and continued momentum in HSY's emerging markets. A more bullish outlook can be constructed with (1) assumption of cost deflation or (2) more aggressive cash deployment assumptions."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 2.2%


Carnival

"We downgrade shares of Carnival to Neutral from Buy," Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a May 4 report. "At current levels, the potential for either a capital allocation story or cost cutting program is low and would likely not be big enough to offset the uncertainty of future earnings and the state of the European consumer. We lower our price target to $32 from $36 and apply a target multiple of 14.5X (versus 15.6X prior). Since adding CCL to the Americas Buy List on September 29, 2010 the shares are down 16.1% vs. the S&P 500 up 21.6%. Over the last twelve months, CCL shares are down 16.2% vs. the S&P 500 up 2.6%."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 3.2%

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Atmos Energy

The natural gas company reported on May 2 second-quarter earnings of $109.1 million, or $1.20 a share, down from year-earlier earnings of $132.2 million, or $1.45 a share.

"We upgrade ATO to Buy (from Neutral) and boost our PO to $37 (from $34)," Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts wrote in a May 17 report. "We see ATO's plan to grow its rate base at a peer-leading CAGR of 8-8.5% over the next few years (versus a peer average growth rate of 5-6%) as auguring for a rerating of ATO among its gas utility peers. Over the past few years, ATO has traded at a significant discount to its peers driven by ATO's acquisitive history and underearning at its largest Distribution segment. However, given forecasted rate base growth, a strong balance sheet, a more progressive regulatory regime, and management's posture of remaining conservative with prospective acquisitions, we see ATO's current discount valuation to peers as unjustified."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 4.2%


Equifax

The financial and marketing information solutions company reported on April 25 first-quarter earnings of $71.5 million, or 58 cents a share, up from year-earlier earnings of $57.3 million, or 46 cents a share.

"Reflecting a better 1H12 outlook, EFX updated its 2012 guidance to a range well ahead of LT growth targets," Credit Suisse analysts wrote in an April 26 report. "The company now expects 12 revenue growth of 10-12% (7-10% long-term) with implied adj. EPS growth of 12-15% (10-13%). The better than anticipated 1H stems from a stronger than expected mortgage contribution (added ~500bp to YoY growth in 1Q) and OCIS revenue growth of 24% (well ahead of 16% online volume growth reflecting positive pricing and favorable mix). While 2Q revenue growth should be comparable to 1Q (12-14%), we expect a deceleration over 2H12 reflecting tougher comps, lapping of pricing initiatives and acquisitions and a lower mortgage contribution."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 1.6%

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Nu Skin

The personal care products company reported on April 26 first-quarter earnings of $47.8 million, or 74 cents a share, up from year-earlier earnings of $15.3 million, or 24 cents a share.

"Our thesis remains that Nu Skin is in the midst of a powerful product cycle, coupled with a concerted effort to improve margins that should drive above-average EPS growth," Canaccord analysts wrote in a May 17 report.

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 2%


Robert Half International

The staffing company reported on April 24 first-quarter earnings of $48.3 million or 34 cents a share, up from year-earlier earnings of $26.7 million, or 18 cents a share.

"We are raising our Q212 revenue estimate by $12M to $1,045M, which implies 11.4% YoY revenue growth; this compares with prior $1,027M consensus, which we expect will be revised higher," Credit Suisse analysts wrote in an April 25 report. "We are raising our Q212 EPS estimate by $0.04 to $0.35 to account for the above revenue increase and more optimistic earnings growth assumptions; our estimate is slightly below prior consensus which we believe might be revised higher."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 2.1%

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Scotts Miracle Gro

The lawn and garden care company reported on May 8 second-quarter earnings of $127.2 million, or $2.05 a share, down from year-earlier earnings of $177.6 million, or $2.63 a share.

"Scotts is a quality company with high market shares in the lawn and garden category," JPMorgan analysts wrote in a May 14 report. "The company faces near-term raw material headwinds in F2012, and has chosen to hold pricing to maintain market share, as well as elevated overhead."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 2.6%


Talisman Energy

The upstream oil and gas company reported first-quarter earnings on May 1 of $291 million, or 28 cents a share, a reversal from a year-earlier loss of $326 million, or 32 cents a share.

"We believe Talisman shares are attractively valued at current levels, particularly for investors seeking exploration driven upside; however, they have proven to be a 'value trap' over the last 18 months as the company has struggled to meet targets in the North Sea and experienced delays in Columbia," BMO Capital Markets analysts wrote in a May 10 report. "In our opinion, the shares could be positively re-rated relative to the group if the company can deliver more consistent operating performance in the North Sea and a clear line of sight on future production growth in Columbia, which in our opinion is the only area in the company's portfolio that has the potential to provide meaningful oil production growth."

Forward Annual Dividend Yield: 2.7%

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-- Written by Alexandra Zendrian

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