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7 Dividend Stocks Hiking Payouts in February

BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- If money talks, dividends just won't shut up right now. For investors, that's a very good thing.

For many, it may seem like a renewed emphasis has come back onto dividends in the last few years. In large part, that's because it has. Post-crisis, both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average are paying out higher average sustained dividend yields to investors than they have since the mid-1990s. That's a massive shift toward the importance of income; where dividend payers were once the "boring," low-growth names, investors are starting to expect income from more buoyant stocks in 2012.

And there's more where that came from. Corporations are still sitting on record profits and balance sheet cash positions, two critical factors in a company's ability to pay out higher dividends to investors. Many investors are still ignoring dividends, opting instead to focus on names that they think have better capital gains potential. If that's your strategy, you may want to take a second look at it.

>>5 Stocks Under $10 Set to Soar

That's because, historically, total returns are almost entirely driven by dividend payouts, and capital gains and income actually go hand in hand.

Over the last 36 years, dividend stocks have outperformed the rest of the S&P 500 by 2.5% annually, and they outperformed nonpayers by nearly 8% every year, all while paying out cash to their shareholders, according to data compiled by Ned Davis Research. The numbers are even more compelling when looking at companies that consistently increase their payouts.

That's why we pay close attention to the firms that are shoveling more corporate cash to shareholders each week. With that, here's a look at seven of the stocks that hiked payouts in the last week.
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