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Top 10 Dividend Stocks

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Dividend yield is the most important factor to use when evaluating investment opportunities, says London-based portfolio manager Job Curtis. Stocks paying steady dividends tend to fall less than the others during tough economic times.

The 10 selected stocks from diversified sectors like energy, financials, medical equipment and consumer goods have dividend yields ranging from 2% to 14% and one-year dividend growth of 6% to 70%.

Based on average estimates of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, these stocks have upside of 10% to 56%. Among analysts covering the stocks, 74% on average recommend a buy.

The stocks are listed in ascending order of upside expected by analysts.

10. Procter & Gamble (PG - Get Report) is a global consumer products giant offering well-known brands. The company's products find exposure in more than 180 countries.

For the first quarter of fiscal 2012, P&G has increased its quarterly dividend to 52 cents from 48 cents in the year-ago period. Operating cash flow was $2.2 billion and free cash flow stood at $1.03 billion. The company has repurchased $1.3 billion shares and returned $1.5 billion cash as quarterly dividend. Currently, the stock is trading at a dividend yield of 3.1% and 9.1% one-year dividend growth, as per data compiled by Bloomberg.

For its first quarter fiscal 2012 ended Sept. 30, the company reported net sales growth of 9% to $21.9 billion compared to $20.1 billion in the same quarter 2010. Net earnings stood at $3 billion and diluted net earnings for the quarter came in at $1.03 per share, an increase of 1%. Cash and cash equivalents increased to $3.58 billion from $2.76 billion in the previous quarter.

For the second quarter of fiscal 2012, net sales and organic sales growth are estimated in the 3% to 5% range. Diluted net earnings per share and core EPS are expected to be in the range of $1.05 to $1.11. For fiscal 2012, diluted EPS from continuing operations and core EPS are expected between $4.17 and $4.33, up 6% to 10%.

Of the 27 analysts covering the stock, 78% recommend a buy and 15% rate a hold. Analysts polled by Bloomberg foresee the stock gaining an average 9.5% to $72.29 in the upcoming 12 months.

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