BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- Watch Your Step, Please: Fiscal Cliff.
That's the warning sign getting waved over Wall Street this week, now that the election is over and investors needing something new to worry about. The fiscal cliff's combination of tax hikes and government spending cuts harkens back to the debt ceiling crisis we saw at the end of last year -- it's just the opposite problem. Instead of making the Treasury default on U.S. debt, the combination of bigger tax burdens and lower services threatens to push us into a depression.
Like the debt ceiling, the clock is ticking on the fiscal cliff too: America sticks one leg over the edge on January 1.Luckily, there is a light at the end of the tunnel here -- Congress is always willing to cut taxes and increase government spending, so lawmakers should be able to reach across the aisle this time to put up a fiscal guardrail. I'm only half joking. In the meantime, there are a couple of outcomes that look likely as the fiscal cliff approaches; continued anxiety over stocks and continued high prices for treasuries. >>5 Trades to Take After the "Obama Crash" Those factors are stacking the deck against dividend-paying stocks at the exact same time that investors should be looking for yield. But we don't want to chase yield, we want to step in front of it. That's why today, we'll focus finding likely dividend hikes for the coming quarter. In other words, these five firms are getting ready to boost dividends; they just don't know it yet. In the past few months we've had some stellar success in finding future dividend hikes just by zeroing in on a few key factors. Now we'll look at our crystal ball and try to do it again. For our purposes, that "crystal ball" is composed of a few factors: namely a solid balance sheet, a low payout ratio, and a history of dividend hikes. While those items don't guarantee dividend announcements in the next month or three, they do dramatically increase the odds that management will hike their cash payouts, especially as investors start to get antsy about this late-2012 rally.