BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- Despite the fact that 2010's biggest week for dividend increases is just a month behind us, Wall Street hit another milestone last week with the year's fewest dividend increases. But last week's lack of dividend activity shouldn't be cause for alarm. With relatively few companies reporting their quarterly numbers right now, it's normal to see dividend announcements fall in kind. Remember, though: Just because fewer stocks are announcing bigger shareholder payouts doesn't mean that the ones that do are any less significant.
Why all the focus on companies that choose to hike their dividend payouts? Historically, companies that pay higher dividends materially outperform those that don't, and when the market turns bearish, dividends could be the only semblance of return that investors see for a while. That means that when a company actually increases its dividend, investors would do well to take notice.
Here's a look at this week's dividend-increasers.