BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- Investors' focus continues to be on earnings this week as another slew of companies reports its quarterly results to Wall Street. Along with those earnings numbers typically come dividends, the all-important payouts to shareholders that can be catalysts for a price movement themselves.
That's because historically, companies that pay higher dividends materially outperform those that don't, and when the market turns bearish, dividends could be the only semblance of return that investors see for a while. And while dividend payouts are great, dividend increases are even better, particularly in this economy, which forces management to choose between prioritizing balance sheet liquidity and sharing profits with shareholders.
Here's this week's round-up of recent
. These stocks represent some of the most interesting income investments on the market right now.
The railroads have been getting added attention recently thanks in large part to Warren Buffett's acquisition of Burlington Northern this year (view
One of the biggest names in the rail transportation industry is
. The $18 billion company owns a 21,000 route-mile rail network, which serves 23 states. CSX reported a 9.1% increase in its dividend last week, bringing its quarterly payout to shareholders to 24 cents per share.
With the skyrocketing gas prices of 2008, rail transportation became a welcome alternative to trucking, which can be three times more expensive per ton shipped. And with a global recession nipping at our heels, it's no surprise that many companies who ship freight are starting to consider the logistics of rail shipments. Improved operational efficiency in recent years should help CSX capitalize on that trend.
One fund that hopes so is the $124 million
(VALUX), which also holds stakes in
Building services and aerospace giant
finished 2009 on a high note, with shares up 20% in the last six months. The diversified company has a strong portfolio of brands, including Carrier air conditioners and Otis Elevators on the building side and Pratt & Whitney jet engines and Sikorsky helicopters on the aerospace side. Last week, United Technologies increased its dividend 10.4% to 42.5 cents per share, giving the stock a 2.5% yield.
United Technologies has benefited from its strong brands in a big way during the recession. Its flagship Sikorsky subsidiary is a major manufacturer of helicopters for the U.S. military, and as such, it's been able to keep its sales strong despite limited demand for other aircraft makers. With a total backlog of more that $60 billion at the beginning of 2009, United Technologies has plenty of business to keep up with its capacity.
One of United Technologies' biggest shareholders is the
(MADVX), a fund that holds Morningstar's coveted five-star rating. Other funds holdings include
Diversified technology conglomerate
is another stock that saw increased dividends last week. Management raised payouts to shareholders 2.9% to 52.5 cents per share, giving the stock a 2.6% dividend yield.
3M prides itself on technological innovation - something that the company's well positioned to leverage right now with a strong balance sheet and R&D team. A widely diversified product mix should help to speed recovery.
(TOCQX) expects that to be the case as well. 3M makes up nearly 2% of the fund's $433 million portfolio. Other Tocqueville holdings include
Johnson & Johnson
For the rest of this week's dividend stocks, check out the
portfolio on Stockpickr.
-- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.
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Jonas Elmerraji is the editor and portfolio manager of the
Rhino Stock Report
, a free investment advisory that returned 15% in 2008. He is a contributor to numerous financial outlets, including
, and has been featured in
Investor's Business Daily