Stockpickr) -- How's your portfolio paying out right now? If Mr. Market's any indication, the answer should be better than ever.
Dividend stocks hit a major milestone this week: The cash payouts of the
S&P 500 are officially higher than they've ever been befor,e according to research from S&P's Howard Silverblatt. Thanks to a slew of dividend hikes at banks in the last week, the broad market index pays out $29.02 per index share -- besting the 2008 record of $28.96.
And there's plenty of reason to believe that those dividend payouts could keep climbing.
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Right now, S&P 500 constituents are only paying out 30% of their incomes, compared to the historical average of 52%. With corporate profits sitting at all-time highs, that means that there's still a lot more room for upside in dividend payouts. And even though stocks are rallying hard in 2012, investors would be wise not to ignore them; it may seem surprising, but historically, dividend payers have made up the majority of market returns.
Over the last 36 years,
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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