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Which of These 10 Dividend Stocks Is Worth the Risk? (Correct)

Story corrected to explain how Windstream will need to migrate land-line customers to other services and not mobile services.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With so much for investors to worry about in 2012, from a potential Greek default to persistently high unemployment, it's no wonder they are thirsty for yield, particularly dividend-paying stocks.

But with the dividend strategy becoming a crowded space more and more each day, investors would be smart to look more closely at individual company fundamentals rather than blindly chase a high-yielding name.

Thus far in 2012, growth stocks have been outperforming most dividend-paying stocks. The Russell 2000 Growth Index is up more than 7% this year already, compare a rise of 4.8% on the S&P 500.

With so much uncertainty due to Europe's debt crisis and worries over a hard landing in China, that performance could reverse and look more like 2011. Reviewing last year, dividend paying stocks outperformed non-dividend paying stocks. Those stocks with dividends increased 1.4% on average in 2011 while those without a dividend decreased 7.6% on average.

The value argument certainly appears more attractive than investing speculative growth names, especially when so many dividend-paying stocks have yields that eclipse the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield of only 2%. The Treasury yield doesn't look like it's going up from here, either, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank may not increase interest rates until late 2014 based on growth expectations

Between the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500, there are over 20 stocks that are yielding more than 5% based on their dividends and share prices. It's prudent to be sure that those yields aren't artificially inflated because a company saw its stock price drop dramatically on weak earnings.

Other bad news can quickly put a company's cash flow and dividend at risk. That is a characteristic found in Frontier Communications (FTR). This company had the highest dividend yield in the screen, but taking a deeper look some red flags surfaced.

Taking a look at the top 10 high-yielding companies in that group, most generally make good investments given the high yield component. None are operating in high-growth areas and therefore aren't likely to massively increase their dividends soon. The companies we did find operate in stable industries like utilities, tobacco, and telecommunications, which typically means reliable dividends. Most of stocks, detailed on the following pages, could be strong investments for investors looking to avert risk but still have a dependable income stream.

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