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KR) has been enjoying its crown as the best-in-breed grocery stock lately; shares have been on fire following the firm's first quarter release at the end of June. Since the calendar flipped over to January, shares of KR have climbed more than 52%, making it one of the best-performing large-cap names of the year. And while dividends have taken a back seat, the grocer still pays out a decent 15-cent quarterly check to investors that adds up to a 1.5% yield. I'd expect management to boost that payout in the near-term.
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Kroger is a 130 year-old grocer that operates more than 2,400 supermarkets, 750 convenience stores, and 325 jewelry stores under a handful of popular brands. Those marquees include Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Kwik Shop and Turkey Hill in addition to the firm's popular brand name. A plan to buy Harris Teeter would add another major jewel to KR's crown in 2013.
One secret to Kroger's success has been gasoline. The firm uses fuel as a loss leader to pull in customers at nearly half of its locations. While many peers have copied that strategy, the existence of gas infrastructure at such a large percentage of its locations gives Kroger some built-in advantages. In many cases, rivals don't have the option to add fuel to as many of their own stores. As Kroger continues to perform, its dividend should continue to climb in kind.