While investors have flocked to some dividend stocks recently, they've been dumping others.

New York-based social investing startup Openfolio surveyed the holdings of 15,000 of its users to identify high-dividend stocks that have been waning in popularity. It sourced the crowd to find out exactly which income stocks investors were selling during the third quarter of the year.

All of the six dividend stocks that saw the most selling from July through September also declined in share value during the period -- though interestingly, the same holds true for the six dividend stocks investors bought as well.

Read on to find out which six big dividend payers have had investors heading to the hills in recent months.

BP

BP Chart BP data by YCharts

Investors backed away from BP  (BP - Get Report) in the third quarter, as the energy stock experienced a 5.2% decrease in popularity, according to Openfolio data. The U.K.-based oil giant has a 6.6% dividend yield and will make its next quarterly distribution of 60 cents per share on Dec. 18.

BP addressed its dividend in its third-quarter earnings report and laid out a strategy to sustain its payout by trimming capital expenditures, unloading assets and cutting other costs. It called maintaining its dividend the "first priority within our financial framework" and emphasized its commitment to "restoring growth in distributions to shareholders over the long term."

TheStreet Ratings team rates BP as a hold with a ratings score of C. TheStreet Ratings team has this to say about its recommendation:

"We rate BP (BP) a hold. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed -- some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. Among the primary strengths of the company is its solid financial position based on a variety of debt and liquidity measures that we have evaluated. At the same time, however, we also find weaknesses including deteriorating net income, disappointing return on equity and weak operating cash flow."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings team include:

  • BP, with its decline in revenue, slightly underperformed the industry average of 37.2%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 41.7%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • Despite currently having a low debt-to-equity ratio of 0.57, it is higher than that of the industry average, inferring that management of debt levels may need to be evaluated further. Regardless of the somewhat mixed results with the debt-to-equity ratio, the company's quick ratio of 1.01 is sturdy.
  • BP 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 two years. However, the consensus estimate suggests that this trend should reverse in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, BP reported lower earnings of $1.21 versus $7.34 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.17 versus $1.21).
  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed against the S&P 500 and did not exceed that of the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 96.4% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from $1,290.00 million to $46.00 million.
  • 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, BP PLC's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: BP

Las Vegas Sands

LVS Chart LVS data by YCharts

Destination properties developer Las Vegas Sands'  (LVS - Get Report) 5.1% dividend yield and 65-cent quarterly payout weren't enough to keep investors satisfied in the third quarter. The stock experienced a 7.4% decline in interest.

TheStreet Ratings team rates Las Vegas Sands as a buy with a ratings score of B-. TheStreet Ratings team has this to say about its recommendation:

"We rate Las Vegas Sands (LVS) a buy. This is driven by a number of strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings team include:

  • LVS, with its decline in revenue, underperformed when compared the industry average of 1.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 18.1%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • Las Vegas Sands' earnings per share declined by 21.7% 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, Las Vegas Sands increased its bottom line by earning $3.51 versus $2.79 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 26.4% in earnings ($2.58 versus $3.51).
  • Reflecting the weaknesses we have cited, including the decline in the company's earnings per share, LVS has underperformed the S&P 500 Index, declining 15.03% from its price level of one year ago. 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.
  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and greatly underperformed compared to the Hotels, Restaurants & Leisure industry average. The net income has decreased by 22.7% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, dropping from $671.71 million to $519.36 million.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: LVS


Prospect Capital

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Prospect Capital (PSEC - Get Report) has an enormous 13.8% dividend yield, but apparently it hasn't been able to entice investors as much as it used to. During the third quarter, the alternative credit asset manager and closed-end investment company experienced an 8.8% dip in ownership among Openfolio investors.

Prospect pays a monthly dividend of 8.3 cents per share and will make its next distribution on Nov. 19.

TheStreet Ratings team rates Prospect Capital as a Hold with a ratings score of C+. TheStreet Ratings team has this to say about its recommendation:

"We rate Prospect Capital (PSEC) a hold. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed -- some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, increase in net income and expanding profit margins. 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 analysis by TheStreet Ratings team include:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 6.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 9.2%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving 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 Capital Markets industry. The net income increased by 32.3% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $71.66 million to $94.77 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 175.44% to $133.85 million when compared to the same quarter last year. Despite an increase in cash flow of 175.44%, Prospect Capital is still growing at a significantly lower rate than the industry average of 230.25%.
  • Prospect Capital has improved earnings per share by 23.8% 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, Prospect Capital reported lower earnings of $0.97 versus $1.08 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.03 versus $0.97).
  • PSEC has underperformed the S&P 500 Index, declining 22.44% 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.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: PSEC


Windstream

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Windstream Holdings  (WIN) saw its popularity among investors decline by 15.4% in the third quarter of the year. During the same period, its price dipped by 8.7%.

The voice and data network communications company pays a quarterly dividend of 15 cents per share and will make its next distribution on Jan. 15. It cut its dividend earlier this year from 25 cents in previous quarters.

There is no TheStreet Ratings data for Windstream at this time.

Vale

VALE Chart VALE data by YCharts

Ownership of Brazilian metals and mining company Vale SA (VALE - Get Report) dropped by 15.6% in the third quarter -- and it might fall even more, at least among investors looking for dividends. The company announced plans to slash its payouts in September, cutting its distribution to $500 million, or about 10 cents per share, from $1 billion and citing a "more uncertain scenario for mineral commodities prices." It paid shareholders the reduced dividend on Nov. 6.

Vale may also see investors running for the hills in the wake of a deadly dam failure in Brazil. Dozens were killed in a dam burst at Samarco, an ore mine jointly owned by Vale and BHP Billiton (BHP) last week. Vale released a statement on the accident, saying that it "will offer its full support at this time and for the investigation to ascertain the causes of the accident."

TheStreet Ratings team rates Vale as a sell with a ratings score of D. TheStreet Ratings team has this to say about its recommendation:

"We rate Vale SA (VALE) a SELL. This is driven by a number of negative factors, which we believe should have a greater impact than any strengths, and could make it more difficult for investors to achieve positive results compared to most of the stocks we cover. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its disappointing return on equity, weak operating cash flow, generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself and feeble growth in its earnings per share."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings team include:

  • 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 Metals & Mining industry and the overall market, Vale SA's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has decreased to $1,629.00 million or 44.59% when compared to the same quarter last year. Despite a decrease in cash flow Vale SA is still fairing well by exceeding its industry average cash flow growth rate of -55.73%.
  • Despite any intermediate fluctuations, we have only bad news to report on this stock's performance over the last year: it has tumbled by 54.08%, worse than the S&P 500's performance. Consistent with the plunge in the stock price, the company's earnings per share are down 46.42% compared to the year-earlier 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.
  • Vale SA's earnings per share declined by 46.4% 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, Vale SA increased its bottom line by earning $0.13 versus $0.01 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 457.7% in earnings (-$0.47 versus $0.13).
  • The change in net income from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the Metals & Mining industry average, but is less than that of the S&P 500. The net income has significantly decreased by 47.3% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from -$1,437.00 million to -$2,117.00 million.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: VALE


Baxter International

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Baxter International (BAX - Get Report) is the stock that experienced the biggest decline in interest among Openfolio dividend hunters in the third quarter, with interest falling by 16.7%. Not only did the stock struggle during the period, with its price falling by more than 40%, but it also cut its dividend as well. The health care company reduced its quarterly dividend to 11.5 cents from 52 cents in October.

TheStreet Ratings team rates Baxter International as a buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings team has this to say about its recommendation:

"We rate Baxter International (BAX) a buy. This is driven by multiple strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance and expanding profit margins. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat weak growth in earnings per share."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings team include:

  • Compared to its closing price of one year ago, BAX's share price has jumped by 244.17%, exceeding the performance of the broader market during that same time frame. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, BAX should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • The revenue fell significantly faster than the industry average of 37.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 40.7%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • 42.18% is the gross profit margin for Baxter International which we consider to be strong. Despite the high profit margin, it has decreased significantly from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, BAX's net profit margin of 0.04% is significantly lower than the industry average.
  • Baxter International 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 two years. We anticipate that this should continue in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, Baxter International reported lower earnings of $3.55 versus $3.65 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 64.7% in earnings ($1.25 versus $3.55).
  • 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 Health Care Equipment & Supplies industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 99.8% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from $468.00 million to $1.00 million.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: BAX

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.