The Most Promising Dividends in Building Materials

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Dividend payers deserve a berth in any long-term stock portfolio. But seemingly attractive dividend yields are not always as fetching as they may appear. Let's see which companies in the building materials industry offer the most promising dividends.

Yields and growth rates and payout ratios, oh my!
Before we get to those companies, though, you should understand just whyyou'd want to own dividend payers. These stocks can contribute a huge chunk of growth to your portfolio in good times, and bolster it during market downturns.

As my colleague Matt Koppenheffer has noted: "Between 2000 and 2009, the average dividend-adjusted return on stocks with market caps above $5 billion and a trailing yield of 2.5% or better was a whopping 114%. Compare that to a 19% drop for the S&P 500."

When hunting for promising dividend payers, unsophisticated investors will often just look for the highest yields they can find. While these stocks will indeed pay out the most, the yield figures apply only for the current year. Extremely steep dividend yields can be precarious, and even solid ones are vulnerable to dividend cuts.

When evaluating a company's attractiveness in terms of its dividend, it's important to examine at least three factors:

  1. The current yield
  2. The dividend growth
  3. The payout ratio

If a company has a middling dividend yield, but a history of increasing its payment substantially from year to year, it deserves extra consideration. A $3 dividend can become $7.80 in 10 years, if it grows at 10% annually. (It will top $20 after 20 years.) Thus, a 3% yield today may be more attractive than a 4% one, if the 3% company is rapidly increasing that dividend.

Next, consider the company's payout ratio, which reflects what percentage of income the company is spending on its dividend. In general, the lower the number, the better. A low payout ratio means there's plenty of room for generous dividend increases. It also means that much of the company's income remains in its hands, giving it a lot of flexibility. That money can fund the business's expansion, pay off debt, buy back shares, or even buy other companies. A steep payout ratio reflects little flexibility for the company, less room for dividend growth, and a stronger chance that if the company falls on hard times, it will have to reduce its dividend.

Peering into building materials
Below, I've compiled some of the major dividend-paying players in the building materials industry (and a few smaller outfits), ranked according to their dividend yields:

Company

Recent Yield

5-Year Avg. Annual Div. Growth Rate

Payout Ratio

Add to Watchlist

Masco (NYS: MAS) 3.5%(21.6%)NMAdd
Apogee Enterprises3.5%4.4%NMAdd
MDU Resources (NYS: MDU) 3.3%5%51%Add
Vulcan Materials (NYS: VMC) 3.3%(7.2%)NMAdd
American Woodmark2.6%22.8%NMAdd
Martin Marietta Materials (NYS: MLM) 2.5%11.1%87%Add
Sherwin-Williams (NYS: SHW) 1.9%8.5%32%Add
Fastenal (NAS: FAST) 1.6%30.2%75%Add
Universal Forest Products (NAS: UFPI) 1.5%32.4%250%Add
Ameron International1.4%37.8%120%Add
AAON1.3%6.2%30%Add
Quanex Building Products1.3%(19.7%)50%Add

Data: Motley Fool CAPS.
NM = Not material due to negative earnings.

If you focus on dividend yield alone, you might end up with companies such as Masco and Apogee Enterprises, but they're not necessarily your best bets. Masco's dividend has been shrinking, and both companies have not reported positive net income lately. Apogee's dividend growth rate, meanwhile, is a bit meager.

Instead, let's focus on the dividend growth rate first, where Universal Forest Products and Ameron International lead the way. Their growth rates are so steep, though, that they will be hard to maintain for long. And the fact that their payout ratios exceed 100% is also a red flag.

Just right
As I see it, among the companies above, MDU Resources and Sherwin-Williams offer the best combination of dividend traits, sporting some solid income now and a good chance of dividend growth in the future. MDU offers more current yield, while Sherwin-Williams's yield is growing faster.

Of course, as with all stocks, you'll want to look into more than just a company's dividend situation before making a purchase decision. Still, these stocks' compelling dividends make them great places to start your search, particularly if you're excited by the prospects for this industry.

Do your portfolio a favor. Don't ignore the growth you can gain from powerful dividend payers.

To get more ideas for great dividend-paying stocks, read about"13 High-Yielding Stocks to Buy Today."

At the time this article was published Longtime Fool contributorSelena Maranjianholds no position in any company mentioned.Click hereto see her holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Universal Forest Products.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Vulcan Materials and Sherwin-Williams. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2011 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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