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Why I Prefer Dividend Growers Galliford Try plc & Bovis Homes Group plc To Dividend Cutters BHP Billiton plc & Hargreaves Services plc

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I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the FTSE 100, which powered through the 6,000-point resistance on Friday, and closed just shy of 6,100 points.

A look behind the scenes

However, the volatility can mask what’s actually going on behind the scenes, and although most UK shares are off of their highs right now, there are some that are stuck in a downtrend. Sometimes this can be caused by sector-based worries such as a housing bubble getting ready to pop – I think there are general worries in this area currently.

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At the same time there are fears that have become reality. We’ve seen plenty of evidence of this following the collapse of the oil and gas price. This has been widely reported in the media, however there have been fewer reports of the negative sentiment in the wider commodity sector. It only takes a quick flick to the databank section in Shares Magazine to see that gold is outperforming and most non-precious metals are headed in the other direction.

It’s hardly surprising then when you turn to the chart below you see that the shares of BHP Billiton (LSE: BLT) and Hargreaves Services (LSE: HSP) have collapsed over the last 12 months due to their exposure to these under-pressure commodities. Meanwhile shares in Bovis Homes (LSE: BVS) and Galliford Try (LSE: GFRD) have simply declined due to the general worries in the sector and market volatility rather than any concrete evidence of a downturn.

Dividend risers vs dividend cutters

If the pressure of falling earnings on the company share price wasn’t enough, investors should be aware that a sensible board will also need to keep their eye on the dividend payout.

Sadly, it’s often the case that investors can be suckered into shares, which to the untrained eye can look like they have a market-beating yield.

We’ve seen evidence of this recently with both BHP Billiton and Hargreaves Services. Before the interim results announcements in February, both shares looked set to yield in excess of 10%. However, both management teams announced that they were cutting the dividend: by a whopping 74% at BHP and 84% at Hargreaves.

Conversely, as earnings increase, in addition to the usual accompanying share price rise, management is also afforded the opportunity of increasing the dividend payout.

We’ve seen this of late with both Bovis and Galliford Try. Both management teams were confident enough to raise the dividend (by 14% at Bovis and 18% for Galliford) and this places the shares on a forward yield of 5% and 6%, respectively, according to data from Stockopedia.

And despite the uncertainty in the housing sector at the moment, most companies that I see presenting from my trading desk are indicating that the current environment is sustainable given the low interest rates and structural shortage of housing generally. This gives me confidence that the dividends are also sustainable and should rise further in the future along with the company share price.

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Dave Sullivan owns shares in Galliford Try. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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