Buy These Top 3 Buy-Rated Dividend Stocks Today: COP, GAS, HIW

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 "Buy."

ConocoPhillips

Dividend Yield: 4.20%

ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) shares currently have a dividend yield of 4.20%.

ConocoPhillips explores for, produces, transports, and markets crude oil, bitumen, natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and natural gas liquids on a worldwide basis. The company has a P/E ratio of 10.30.

The average volume for ConocoPhillips has been 5,317,200 shares per day over the past 30 days. ConocoPhillips has a market cap of $81.2 billion and is part of the energy industry. Shares are down 5.9% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Friday.

TheStreet Ratings rates ConocoPhillips as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its increase in net income, attractive valuation levels, expanding profit margins, good cash flow from operations and increase in stock price during the past year. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 74.4% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $1,426.00 million to $2,487.00 million.
  • 38.26% is the gross profit margin for CONOCOPHILLIPS which we consider to be strong. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 18.76% significantly outperformed against the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has slightly increased to $3,911.00 million or 1.05% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, CONOCOPHILLIPS has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -52.18%.
  • 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.

AGL Resources

Dividend Yield: 4.20%

AGL Resources (NYSE: GAS) shares currently have a dividend yield of 4.20%.

AGL Resources Inc., an energy services holding company, distributes natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and governmental customers in Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, and Maryland. The company has a P/E ratio of 17.69.

The average volume for AGL Resources has been 686,500 shares per day over the past 30 days. AGL Resources has a market cap of $5.6 billion and is part of the utilities industry. Shares are down 0.4% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Friday.

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

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 16.8%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 9.1%. 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.
  • AGL RESOURCES INC's earnings per share declined by 19.0% 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, AGL RESOURCES INC increased its bottom line by earning $2.64 versus $2.31 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.95 versus $2.64).
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. When compared to other companies in the Gas Utilities industry and the overall market, AGL RESOURCES INC's return on equity is below that of both the industry average and 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.

Highwoods Properties

Dividend Yield: 4.50%

Highwoods Properties (NYSE: HIW) shares currently have a dividend yield of 4.50%.

Highwoods Properties, Inc. is a real estate investment trust. The trust engages in leasing, management, development, construction, and other customer-related services for its properties and for third parties. It invests in the real estate markets of United States. The company has a P/E ratio of 55.97.

The average volume for Highwoods Properties has been 654,600 shares per day over the past 30 days. Highwoods Properties has a market cap of $3.4 billion and is part of the real estate industry. Shares are up 4.3% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Friday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Highwoods Properties as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, reasonable valuation levels and good cash flow from operations. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 6.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 21.3%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
  • HIGHWOODS PROPERTIES INC reported significant earnings per share improvement 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, HIGHWOODS PROPERTIES INC increased its bottom line by earning $0.67 versus $0.46 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($0.79 versus $0.67).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) industry. The net income increased by 106.5% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $14.70 million to $30.36 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $69.95 million or 26.26% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, HIGHWOODS PROPERTIES INC has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -54.21%.

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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