Dividend Stocks: Ameriprise, Exxon

These companies, including Ameriprise and Exxon, recently increased their dividends.
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NEW YORK (Stockpickr) -- Yesterday's "Crash of 2:45 p.m." might not have led to a long-lasting decline in stock values, but it did provide a very valuable lesson for investors in search of some stability in an otherwise volatile market: While stock prices can fluctuate wildly, dividends continue to deliver income to shareholders.

For many in today's stock appreciation obsessed market, the idea of turning to income stocks for gains may sound surprising, but the two are actually more closely connected than they first appear. Historically, companies that pay higher dividends materially outperform those that don't. In the last 36 years, dividend stocks outperformed the rest of the

S&P 500

by 2.5% annually. And they outperformed nonpayers by nearly 8% each and every year, according to a study from NDR. That means that when a company actually increases its dividend, investors would do well to take notice.

Here's a look at the companies that

increased their dividends last week

.

High-Yielding Stock Ideas

Top 10 Dow Dividend Stocks

Despite market conditions that have been anything but supportive for financial stocks in the past few years, there's a serious growth story taking place in shares of

Ameriprise

(AMP) - Get Report

, an $11 billion financial advisory firm. That growth is flowing through to Ameriprise's dividend payouts too; the company hiked its dividend 5.9% to 18 cents per share last week.

Since its 2005 spinoff from

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

, Ameriprise has been building an investment service empire through an impressive series of acquisitions that will bring the company's assets under management to more than $400 billion. One of the most significant of those is the purchase of Columbia Management, a major investment manager that's currently owned by

Bank of America

. Columbia manages more than 90 mutual funds and administers investment accounts for corporations, non-profits, and individuals. Despite Ameriprise's significant outlay to get Columbia under its umbrella, the company will still have significant excess capital in play -- more than enough to keep doling out its quarterly payout to shareholders. Expect that yield to keep producing for investors right now.

One of those investors is the

Legg Mason Partners Financial Services Fund

(SBFAX), a small mutual fund that holds Morningstar's four-star rating.

Visa

(V) - Get Report

and

U.S. Bancorp

(USB) - Get Report

are among its other positions.

With all the focus that

oil stocks

have been seeing lately, it's nice to see that one company not directly involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is making the headlines:

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Report

. Everyone's favorite supermajor announced a 4.8% dividend increase last week to make our list, giving shares a 2.75% dividend yield.

Exxon has been on top of the oil game for a long time, and with the acquisition of

XTO Energy

(XTO)

, the company's hoping to add natural gas to its repertoire in a meaningful way. That's a truly good development for investors, as the diversification into natural gas takes some of the risk away from Exxon's business -- particularly as oil prices slide and extraction costs continue to be burdensome. From a shareholder value standpoint, Exxon is one of the best players in its field, having returned $39 billion to shareholders in the last five years in the form of dividends, all while reducing its outstanding shares by 23%. Tons of cash on hand and a AAA credit rating make this income stock a safe bet for the next few years.

Investors in the

Vanguard 500 Index Fund

certainly hope so -- the company is the biggest holding in the fund, which mirrors the composition of the S&P 500 index. Other positions include

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

and

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

.

International Paper

(IP) - Get Report

has been a fickle stock for dividend investors in the past couple of years. With a mounting recession and a largely cyclical business, the paper giant slashed dividends to save significant amounts of cash to stifle any financial hemorrhages. As the economy continues its apparent recovery, IP decided that it could begin to increase its dividends once again, leading to last week's biggest hike, a 400% dividend increase that brings the company's yield to 2.14%.

The decision to increase its dividend is a significant commitment for International Paper. Now that it's decided to significantly restore its dividend levels, the company is essentially making it clear that it doesn't foresee any hiccups in the near term that could force it into any sort of liquidity trouble. Still, with dividends at around half of historic levels right now, IP has a little bit of wiggle room. That suggests that as long as recovery continues on track, we should expect to see additional dividend increases out of this stock.

The

Vanguad Materials Fund

(VMIAX) is hoping so -- the fund owns a sizable stake in International Paper. Other holdings include

Monsanto

(MON)

and

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

.

For the rest of this week's dividend stocks, check out the

Dividend Stocks portfolio

on Stockpickr.

And if you haven't already done so,

join Stockpickr

today to create your own dividend portfolio.

RELATED LINKS:

>>Trading Nymph: A Peak at Next Week

>>Jim Cramer's Portfolios of the Week

>>"Fast Money" Portfolios of the Week

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-- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.

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

Forbes

and

Investopedia

, and has been featured in

Investor's Business Daily

, in

Consumer's Digest

and on

MSNBC.com

.