The Most Promising Dividends in Steel and Iron Stocks

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

Company

Recent Yield

5-Year Avg. Annual Div. Growth Rate

Payout Ratio

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Companhia Siderurgica Nacional (NYS: SID)

7.8%

9.4%

44%

Add

Commercial Metals (NYS: CMC)

4.5%

22.8%

NM

Add

Nucor (NYS: NUE)

4.2%

(2.5%)

98%

Add

Harsco

3.7%

5.3%

390%

Add

Steel Dynamics

3.7%

13.7%

34%

Add

Ternium

3.6%

14.5%*

23%

Add

ArcelorMittal (NYS: MT)

3.3%

3.3%

31%

Add

Worthington Industries

3.1%

(11.4%)

25%

Add

AK Steel Holding (NYS: AKS)

2.8%

0.0%**

NM

Add

Cliffs Natural Resources (NYS: CLF)

1.8%

17.1%

5%

Add

U.S. Steel (NYS: X)

0.9%

(18.9%)

NM

Add

Data: Motley Fool CAPS.
NM = Not meaningful due to negative earnings.
*Over past four years.
**Over past three years.

If you focus on dividend yield alone, you might end up with companies with unsustainable dividend growth rates or payout ratios so steep that their dividends may not even be sustainable. Nucor, for instance, sports an attractive yield, but the payout has fallen from the days when it regularly paid special supplemental dividends, and it's recently been paying out close to 100% of its earnings. Harsco's payout ratio is even steeper.

Focus on the dividend growth rate instead and you'll be drawn to Commercial Metals, but it has recently been posting losses instead of net earnings.

Just right
As I see it, among the companies above, Companhia Siderurgica Nacional and Steel Dynamics offer the best combination of dividend traits, sporting some solid income now and a good chance of strong dividend growth in the future. Nucor is also worth looking into, as it has a strong reputation.

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.

Looking for someall-star dividend-paying stocks? Look no further.

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.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Nucor. 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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