4 Sell-Rated Dividend Stocks Leading The Pack: ATAX, LPHI, APTS, EROC

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 "Sell."

America First Multifamily Investors

Dividend Yield: 7.90%

America First Multifamily Investors (NASDAQ: ATAX) shares currently have a dividend yield of 7.90%.

America First Multifamily Investors, L.P. acquires, holds, sells, and deals in a portfolio of federally tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds that have been issued to provide construction and/or permanent financing of multifamily residential apartments. The company has a P/E ratio of 19.81.

The average volume for America First Multifamily Investors has been 217,800 shares per day over the past 30 days. America First Multifamily Investors has a market cap of $323.7 million and is part of the real estate industry. Shares are down 4.7% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Thursday.

TheStreet Ratings rates America First Multifamily Investors as a sell. The area that we feel has been the company's primary weakness has been its relatively poor performance when compared with the S&P 500 during the past year.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • In its most recent trading session, ATAX has closed at a price level that was not very different from its closing price of one year earlier. This is probably due to its weak earnings growth as well as other mixed factors. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, we do not believe this stock offers ample reward opportunity to compensate for the risks, despite the fact that it rose over the past year.
  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed compared to the Thrifts & Mortgage Finance industry average, but is greater than that of the S&P 500. The net income increased by 54.2% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $2.21 million to $3.41 million.
  • Current return on equity exceeded its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of strength within the company. When compared to other companies in the Thrifts & Mortgage Finance industry and the overall market, AMERICA FIRST MULTIFAMILY-LP's return on equity is below that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • The gross profit margin for AMERICA FIRST MULTIFAMILY-LP is currently very high, coming in at 73.27%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Regardless of the strong results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 34.94% trails the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 1007.23% to $4.76 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, AMERICA FIRST MULTIFAMILY-LP has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of 40.11%.

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

Life Partners Holdings

Dividend Yield: 11.10%

Life Partners Holdings (NASDAQ: LPHI) shares currently have a dividend yield of 11.10%.

Life Partners Holdings, Inc., through its subsidiary, Life Partners, Inc., operates in the secondary market for life insurance worldwide. It facilitates the sale of life settlements between sellers and purchasers, but does not take possession or control of the policies.

The average volume for Life Partners Holdings has been 23,300 shares per day over the past 30 days. Life Partners Holdings has a market cap of $33.6 million and is part of the insurance industry. Shares are down 30.8% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Thursday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Life Partners Holdings as a sell. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its disappointing return on equity and generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • 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 Diversified Financial Services industry and the overall market, LIFE PARTNERS HOLDINGS INC's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • LPHI has underperformed the S&P 500 Index, declining 24.49% from its price level of one year ago. The fact that the stock is now selling for less than others in its industry in relation to its current earnings is not reason enough to justify a buy rating at this time.
  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and greatly underperformed compared to the Diversified Financial Services industry average. The net income increased by 3.0% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from -$1.85 million to -$1.79 million.
  • LPHI, with its very weak revenue results, has greatly underperformed against the industry average of 13.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues plummeted by 86.3%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to not be hurting the bottom line, shown by stable earnings per share.
  • LIFE PARTNERS HOLDINGS INC reported flat earnings per share in the most recent quarter. Stable Earnings per share over the past year indicate the company has sound management over its earnings and share float. During the past fiscal year, LIFE PARTNERS HOLDINGS INC continued to lose money by earning -$0.16 versus -$0.17 in the prior year.

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

Preferred Apartment Communities

Dividend Yield: 8.30%

Preferred Apartment Communities (AMEX: APTS) shares currently have a dividend yield of 8.30%.

Preferred Apartment Communities, Inc. is a real estate investment trust launched and managed by Preferred Apartment Advisors, LLC. The fund invests in real estate markets of the United States. It primarily acquires and operates multifamily apartment properties.

The average volume for Preferred Apartment Communities has been 62,900 shares per day over the past 30 days. Preferred Apartment Communities has a market cap of $115.6 million and is part of the real estate industry. Shares are down 0.5% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Thursday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Preferred Apartment Communities as a sell. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its deteriorating net income, disappointing return on equity, generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself and feeble growth in its earnings per share.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 34.2% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from $0.15 million to $0.10 million.
  • Current return on equity is lower than its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of weakness within the company. Compared to other companies in the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) industry and the overall market, PREFERRED APARTMENT CMNTYS's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • This stock has managed to decline in share value by 3.73% over the past twelve months. The fact that the stock is now selling for less than others in its industry in relation to its current earnings is not reason enough to justify a buy rating at this time.
  • PREFERRED APARTMENT CMNTYS's earnings have gone downhill when comparing its most recently reported quarter with the same quarter a year earlier. 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, PREFERRED APARTMENT CMNTYS continued to lose money by earning -$0.11 versus -$1.67 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 1050.0% in earnings (-$1.27 versus -$0.11).
  • The gross profit margin for PREFERRED APARTMENT CMNTYS is rather high; currently it is at 61.13%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Despite the strong results of the gross profit margin, APTS's net profit margin of 1.11% significantly trails the industry average.

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

Eagle Rock Energy Partners

Dividend Yield: 10.80%

Eagle Rock Energy Partners (NASDAQ: EROC) shares currently have a dividend yield of 10.80%.

Eagle Rock Energy Partners, L.P., together with its subsidiaries, engages in gathering, compressing, treating, processing, transporting, marketing, and trading natural gas, as well as fractionating and transporting natural gas liquids (NGL).

The average volume for Eagle Rock Energy Partners has been 905,300 shares per day over the past 30 days. Eagle Rock Energy Partners has a market cap of $882.5 million and is part of the energy industry. Shares are down 36.1% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Thursday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Eagle Rock Energy Partners as a sell. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its generally high debt management risk, disappointing return on equity, weak operating cash flow and generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • Currently the debt-to-equity ratio of 1.57 is quite high overall and when compared to the industry average, suggesting that the current management of debt levels should be re-evaluated. To add to this, EROC has a quick ratio of 0.66, this demonstrates the lack of ability of the company to cover short-term liquidity needs.
  • Current return on equity is lower than its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of weakness within the company. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, EAGLE ROCK ENERGY PARTNRS LP's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has declined marginally to $47.12 million or 4.28% when compared to the same quarter last year. In conjunction, when comparing current results to the industry average, EAGLE ROCK ENERGY PARTNRS LP has marginally lower results.
  • EROC's stock share price has done very poorly compared to where it was a year ago: Despite any rallies, the net result is that it is down by 33.34%, which is also worse that the performance of the S&P 500 Index. Investors have so far failed to pay much attention to the earnings improvements the company has managed to achieve over the last quarter. Naturally, the overall market trend is bound to be a significant factor. However, in one sense, the stock's sharp decline last year is a positive for future investors, making it cheaper (in proportion to its earnings over the past year) than most other stocks in its industry. But due to other concerns, we feel the stock is still not a good buy right now.
  • EAGLE ROCK ENERGY PARTNRS LP has improved earnings per share by 24.4% 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, EAGLE ROCK ENERGY PARTNRS LP swung to a loss, reporting -$1.11 versus $0.38 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings (-$0.08 versus -$1.11).

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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