Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dividend Valuation Model: United Technology Is #1

Dividends play two important roles in our stock selection process.  1) They produce a cash return that has represented nearly 40% of the total return of the S&P 500 Index over the last 80 years. 2)  For select companies, dividend growth and changes in interest rates provide an excellent valuation tool.

Each week we run all the stocks in the Russell 1000 through our Dividend Valuation model.   The model does two important things for us.  Statistically, it tells us how good it has been in predicting movements in each stock over the last 20 years, and it provides us with a single formula that has produced the best fit of prices versus dividends and interest rates.

At this point in the process, we can easily identify which stocks are most "predictable."  Next we make a projection of the dividend growth for each company and estimate changes in interest rates for the coming year.  With this information, the model can now tell us which stocks are most undervalued.  Finally, we run all stocks through a multi-period momentum filter.  This tells us which stocks have what we call "sponsorship," meaning which companies are performing at least as well as the average stock over four different time frames..

This may sound complex, and the process is, but the result is very simple.  We have identified the companies that are most predictable, most undervalued, and have the best sponsorship, or momentum.

We then assign a rank between 1 and 100 for each of the three metrics for each company.  Summing the ranks for predictability, valuation, and sponsorship, we can identify the company with the highest overall total rank in  the Russell 1000 and the also among the companies we own.

Using this process, of calculating predictability, valuation, and sponsorship, we can determine those stocks with the best prospect for the year ahead

 A look at the model as of Friday reveals that the stock we own with the best overall score is United Technology (UTX).  As shown above, the model (blue line) for UTX has been very tightly associated with UTX's actual price (red line) over the last 20 years.  The R-squared is .94.  The models suggests that UTX is undervalued by about 12%, including dividend. UTX's sponsorship or momentum score is 67, which means that it has outperformed 67% of all stocks over four time frames, from 12 months to one month.  Importantly it is outperforming 74% of all stocks over the last three months.  UTX recently hiked it dividend 13%, which is about in line with the company's dividend actions over the last ten years.  Finally, earnings were recently reported as having grown 19% in the first quarter versus a year ago.  That provides a nice cushion for future dividend hikes.

There are a handful of stocks with better scores than UTX.  Our strategists are researching them.  We'll report later if any of them meet our standards.

The stock with the second highest score in our model is Becton Dickinson (BDX).  We will report on it next time.

The investment world has definitely discovered dividends.  We have not seen this kind of attention being paid to dividend investing in our own 20 years of a dividend-centric approach.  Because dividends have become so popular, we are turning our focus to valuation in our blogs for a while.  We have learned the hard way too many times that just because a company pays a dividend, or has increased its dividend for 20 or 30 years in a row does not mean that it is fairly priced.  Indeed, we see many companies with long dividend-paying track records that have already priced in the next two years of dividend growth.

If you have specific dividend-paying companies that you would like for us to review, please add a comment to this blog.  We'll get to as many as we can.