5 Buy-Rated Dividend Stocks

Editor's Note: TheStreet ratings do not represent the views of TheStreet's staff or its contributors. Ratings are established by computer based on metrics for performance (which includes growth, stock performance, efficiency and valuation) and risk (volatility and solvency). Companies with poor cash flow or high debt levels tend to earn lower ratings in our model.

TheStreet Ratings' stock model projects a stock's total return potential over a 12-month period including both price appreciation and dividends. Our Buy, Hold or Sell ratings designate how we expect these stocks to perform against a general benchmark of the equities market and interest rates.

While plenty of high-yield opportunities exist, investors must always consider the safety of their dividend and the total return potential of their investment. It is not uncommon for a struggling company to suspend high-yielding dividends and subsequently result in precipitous share price declines.

TheStreet Ratings' stock rating model views dividends favorably, but not so much that other factors are disregarded. Our model gauges the relationship between risk and reward in several ways, including: the pricing drawdown as compared to potential profit volatility, i.e. how much one is willing to risk in order to earn profits?; the level of acceptable volatility for highly performing stocks; the current valuation as compared to projected earnings growth; and the financial strength of the underlying company as compared to its stock's valuation as compared to its stock's performance.

These and many more derived observations are then combined, ranked, weighted, and scenario-tested to create a more complete analysis. The result is a systematic and disciplined method of selecting stocks. As always, stock ratings should not be treated as gospel — rather, use them as a starting point for your own research.

The following pages contain our analysis of 5 stocks with substantial yields, that ultimately, we have rated "Buy."

Darden Restaurants

Dividend Yield: 4.10%

Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI) shares currently have a dividend yield of 4.10%.

Darden Restaurants, Inc. owns and operates full service restaurants in the United States and Canada. It operates restaurants under the Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, Eddie V's Prime Seafood, and Wildfish Seafood Grille brand names. The company has a P/E ratio of 14.01. Currently there are 8 analysts that rate Darden Restaurants a buy, 2 analysts rate it a sell, and 16 rate it a hold.

The average volume for Darden Restaurants has been 1,977,200 shares per day over the past 30 days. Darden Restaurants has a market cap of $6.3 billion and is part of the leisure industry. Shares are up 8% year to date as of the close of trading on Tuesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Darden Restaurants as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, reasonable valuation levels and good cash flow from operations. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • DRI's revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 2.8%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 7.0%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 137.27% to $14.20 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, DARDEN RESTAURANTS INC has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -8.41%.
  • DARDEN RESTAURANTS INC's earnings per share declined by 36.6% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. We feel it is likely to report a decline in earnings in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, DARDEN RESTAURANTS INC increased its bottom line by earning $3.59 versus $3.42 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 12.3% in earnings ($3.15 versus $3.59).
  • The share price of DARDEN RESTAURANTS INC has not done very well: it is down 6.92% and has underperformed the S&P 500, in part reflecting the company's sharply declining earnings per share when compared to the year-earlier quarter. Looking ahead, although the push and pull of the overall market trend could certainly make a critical difference, we do not see any strong reason stemming from the company's fundamentals that would cause a continuation of last year's decline. In fact, the stock is now selling for less than others in its industry in relation to its current earnings.

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