What To Hold: 3 Hold-Rated Dividend Stocks LGCY, ACRE, EFC

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 3 stocks with substantial yields, that ultimately, we have rated "Hold."

Legacy Reserves

Dividend Yield: 8.90%

Legacy Reserves (NASDAQ: LGCY) shares currently have a dividend yield of 8.90%.

Legacy Reserves LP, an independent oil and natural gas limited partnership, engages in the acquisition and development of oil and natural gas properties primarily located in the Permian Basin, Mid-Continent, and Rocky Mountain regions of the United States.

The average volume for Legacy Reserves has been 142,700 shares per day over the past 30 days. Legacy Reserves has a market cap of $1.5 billion and is part of the energy industry. Shares are down 5.9% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Tuesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Legacy Reserves as a hold. Among the primary strengths of the company is its robust revenue growth -- not just in the most recent periods but in previous quarters as well. At the same time, however, we also find weaknesses including deteriorating net income, generally higher debt management risk and disappointing return on equity.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 3.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 33.5%. 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.
  • LEGACY RESERVES LP has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. The company has reported a trend of declining earnings per share over the past year. However, the consensus estimate suggests that this trend should reverse in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, LEGACY RESERVES LP swung to a loss, reporting -$0.62 versus $1.43 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.30 versus -$0.62).
  • In its most recent trading session, LGCY 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 toward the future, the fact that the stock has come down in price over the past year should not necessarily be interpreted as a negative; it could be one of the factors that may help make the stock attractive down the road. Right now, however, we believe that it is too soon to buy.
  • Return on equity has greatly decreased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of major weakness within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, LEGACY RESERVES LP's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • The gross profit margin for LEGACY RESERVES LP is currently extremely low, coming in at 11.32%. It has decreased significantly from the same period last year. Along with this, the net profit margin of -37.04% is significantly below that of 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.

Ares Commercial Real Estate

Dividend Yield: 7.40%

Ares Commercial Real Estate (NYSE: ACRE) shares currently have a dividend yield of 7.40%.

Ares Commercial Real Estate Corporation, a specialty finance company, operates as a real estate investment trust (REIT). It originates, invests in, and manages middle-market commercial real estate (CRE) loans and other commercial real estate investments. The company has a P/E ratio of 14.93.

The average volume for Ares Commercial Real Estate has been 246,100 shares per day over the past 30 days. Ares Commercial Real Estate has a market cap of $382.7 million and is part of the real estate industry. Shares are up 2.6% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Tuesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Ares Commercial Real Estate as a hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, impressive record of earnings per share growth and compelling growth in net income. However, as a counter to these strengths, we find that the stock has had a generally disappointing performance in the past year.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • ACRE's very impressive revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 6.8%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues leaped by 697.9%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • ARES COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($0.86 versus $0.10).
  • Compared to other companies in the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) industry and the overall market on the basis of return on equity, ARES COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE underperformed against that of the industry average and is significantly less than that of the S&P 500.
  • ACRE has underperformed the S&P 500 Index, declining 20.97% 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.

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

Ellington Financial

Dividend Yield: 12.40%

Ellington Financial (NYSE: EFC) shares currently have a dividend yield of 12.40%.

Ellington Financial LLC, a specialty finance company, acquires and manages mortgage-related assets, including residential mortgage backed securities backed by prime jumbo, Alt-A, manufactured housing and subprime residential mortgage loans, and residential mortgage-backed securities. The company has a P/E ratio of 7.55.

The average volume for Ellington Financial has been 132,200 shares per day over the past 30 days. Ellington Financial has a market cap of $629.3 million and is part of the real estate industry. Shares are up 8.9% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Tuesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Ellington Financial as a hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, attractive valuation levels and expanding profit margins. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including feeble growth in the company's earnings per share, deteriorating net income and disappointing return on equity.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 16.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 37.8%. 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.
  • ELLINGTON FINANCIAL LLC has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. Earnings per share have declined over the last year. We anticipate that this should continue in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, ELLINGTON FINANCIAL LLC reported lower earnings of $3.46 versus $5.32 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 13.6% in earnings ($2.99 versus $3.46).
  • 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 Capital Markets industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 40.0% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from $24.79 million to $14.86 million.

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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