BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- You deserve a raise ... from your portfolio.
And since earnings season is still in full swing, income-seeking investors are in an ideal spot to grab bigger paychecks from their stock holdings. Dividend hikes and earnings announcements go hand in hand, after all. It doesn't hurt that U.S. stocks are sitting on record cash holdings at the same time they're beating analysts' earnings estimates for the quarter -- while Wall Street only expected a 1.9% increase in fourth quarter profits, firms have actually boosted their earnings by 5% this quarter.
With average payout ratios for the S&P 500 still well below historic averages, firms have a lot of room to hike their dividends without going overboard. But it's not enough to jump in after a big dividend hike -- investors who want the maximum effect for their portfolios need to get in early and predict dividend boosts. While that's easier said than done, it's far from impossible to step in front of big dividend payouts.In the past few months, we've had some stellar success in finding future dividend hikes just by zeroing in on a few key factors. Now we'll look at our crystal ball and try to do it again. >>5 Stock Charts You Need to See For our purposes, that "crystal ball" is composed of a few factors: namely a solid balance sheet, a low payout ratio, and a history of dividend hikes. While those items don't guarantee dividend announcements in the next month or three, they do dramatically increase the odds that management will hike their cash payouts, especially as investors start to get antsy about whether or not 2013's rally will be able to hang on. Without further ado, here's a look at five stocks that could be about to increase their dividend payments in the next quarter. Marathon Oil Corporation Independent oil and gas exploration firm Marathon Oil Corporation (MRO - Get Report) has been reaping the benefits of its unique exposure of late, rallying more than 24% as oil prices push higher alongside stocks. Marathon's reserves are made up of 1.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent spread across North America, Indonesia, Europe, and the Middle East. Around three-quarters of those reserves are made up of liquids, exposure that gives MRO more bang for its extraction buck given current commodity prices.