4 Buy-Rated Dividend Stocks: AEP, MO, DUK, PPL

Editor's Note: Any reference to TheStreet Ratings and its underlying recommendation does not reflect the opinion of TheStreet, Inc. or any of its contributors including Jim Cramer or Stephanie Link.

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 4 stocks with substantial yields, that ultimately, we have rated "Buy."

American Electric Power

Dividend Yield: 4.30%

American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) shares currently have a dividend yield of 4.30%.

American Electric Power Company, Inc., a public utility holding company, engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power to retail customers. The company generates electricity using coal and lignite, natural gas, nuclear energy, and hydroelectric energy. The company has a P/E ratio of 18.39.

The average volume for American Electric Power has been 3,595,500 shares per day over the past 30 days. American Electric Power has a market cap of $22.3 billion and is part of the utilities industry. Shares are up 6.6% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates American Electric Power as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, increase in stock price during the past year and reasonable valuation levels. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • AEP's revenue growth trails the industry average of 17.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 0.9%. 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.
  • Compared to where it was 12 months ago, the stock is up, but it has so far lagged the appreciation in the S&P 500. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER CO's earnings per share declined by 8.0% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has suffered a declining pattern of earnings per share over the past year. However, we anticipate this trend reversing over the coming year. During the past fiscal year, AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER CO reported lower earnings of $2.60 versus $3.24 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($3.15 versus $2.60).
  • The company's current return on equity has slightly decreased from the same quarter one year prior. This implies a minor weakness in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Electric Utilities industry and the overall market on the basis of return on equity, AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER CO has outperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500.

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12-months. Learn more.

Altria Group

Dividend Yield: 5.00%

Altria Group (NYSE: MO) shares currently have a dividend yield of 5.00%.

Altria Group, Inc., through its subsidiaries, engages in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, smokeless products, and wine in the United States and internationally. The company has a P/E ratio of 16.16.

The average volume for Altria Group has been 9,268,400 shares per day over the past 30 days. Altria Group has a market cap of $71.0 billion and is part of the tobacco industry. Shares are up 12% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Altria Group as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its growth in earnings per share, notable return on equity, expanding profit margins, good cash flow from operations and increase in net income. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • ALTRIA GROUP INC has improved earnings per share by 5.0% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, ALTRIA GROUP INC increased its bottom line by earning $2.06 versus $1.64 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.39 versus $2.06).
  • The company's current return on equity greatly increased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of significant strength within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Tobacco industry and the overall market, ALTRIA GROUP INC's return on equity significantly exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • The gross profit margin for ALTRIA GROUP INC is rather high; currently it is at 57.47%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 27.97% is above that of the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to -$1,223.00 million or 36.36% when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of -8.62%.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the Tobacco industry average, but is less than that of the S&P 500. The net income increased by 3.3% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $1,225.00 million to $1,266.00 million.

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12-months. Learn more.

Duke Energy Corporation

Dividend Yield: 4.40%

Duke Energy Corporation (NYSE: DUK) shares currently have a dividend yield of 4.40%.

Duke Energy Corporation operates as an energy company in the United States and Latin America. The company operates in three segments: U.S. Franchised Electric and Gas, Commercial Power, and International Energy. The U.S. The company has a P/E ratio of 21.49.

The average volume for Duke Energy Corporation has been 3,005,000 shares per day over the past 30 days. Duke Energy Corporation has a market cap of $50.2 billion and is part of the utilities industry. Shares are up 11.4% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Duke Energy Corporation as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, compelling growth in net income, good cash flow from operations, growth in earnings per share and reasonable valuation levels. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • DUK's very impressive revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 17.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues leaped by 62.1%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Electric Utilities industry. The net income increased by 114.9% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $295.00 million to $634.00 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $1,091.00 million or 25.11% when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of -1.65%.
  • DUKE ENERGY CORP has improved earnings per share by 34.8% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, DUKE ENERGY CORP reported lower earnings of $3.06 versus $3.84 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($4.34 versus $3.06).

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12-months. Learn more.

PPL

Dividend Yield: 4.60%

PPL (NYSE: PPL) shares currently have a dividend yield of 4.60%.

PPL Corporation, an energy and utility holding company, engages in the generation, transmission, distribution, and sale of electricity to wholesale and retail customers in the United States and the United Kingdom. The company operates in four segments: Kentucky Regulated, U.K. The company has a P/E ratio of 12.71.

The average volume for PPL has been 5,678,700 shares per day over the past 30 days. PPL has a market cap of $20.0 billion and is part of the utilities industry. Shares are up 11.3% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates PPL as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, increase in net income, good cash flow from operations, increase in stock price during the past year and attractive valuation levels. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 17.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 35.3%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Electric Utilities industry. The net income increased by 49.4% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $271.00 million to $405.00 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 221.00% to $703.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, PPL CORP has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -1.65%.
  • Compared to where it was 12 months ago, the stock is up, but it has so far lagged the appreciation in the S&P 500. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12-months. Learn more.

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