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By Jonas Elmerraji
BALTIMORE ( TheStreet) -- Over the past 35 years, dividend-paying S&P 500 stocks have outperformed nonpayers by more than double. And in 2008, when the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 39% and 34%, respectively, dividends proved to be the only silver lining to a very serious financial storm.
But that's not to say that dividends have been easy to come by over the course of the last year. In 2008, 62 companies reduced or completely eliminated dividends in light of a significantly tougher economic environment. And in 2009 -- a year that's been markedly better for investors -- nearly 70 more companies have had to cut payments to shareholders.Dividend-slashers have seen their share prices trimmed in kind, but the few stocks whose dividends rose in the last year are more likely to have seen gains as a result. That's because investors have been quick to pile into companies that are healthy enough to part with in-demand cash for the benefit of their shareholders. Every week Stockpickr reviews the recent dividend declarations and compiles a portfolio of dividend-increasers for the week. These stocks represent some of the most enticing investments on the market right now. This week's portfolio includes such stocks as Altria (MO - Get Report) and Guess? (GES - Get Report). It's often said that "sin stocks" -- companies that offer "colorful" products such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling -- are among the best investments during a recession. Case in point: cigarette giant Altria, which recently raised its dividend 6.3% to 34 cents. That means that right now the company, which has seen its share rise 21% since January, features an impressive yield of 7.44%.