NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

Johnson Controls

(JCI) - Get Report

,

Mattel

(MAT) - Get Report

and

Wendy's Arby's

(WEN) - Get Report

joined a roster of companies raising their shareholder payouts in recent weeks.

Dividend activity has picked up lately as companies begin to regain some sense of stability in the state of the economy, and visibility of future earnings growth. The

iShares Dow Jones Select Dividend

(DVY) - Get Report

, an exchange-traded fund that tracks the

Dow Jones U.S. Select Dividend Index

, is up nearly 10% so far in 2010.

There are several advantages to investing in dividend stocks for market watchers with long-term investment plans.

Most simply, dividend stocks allow investors to make money with capital gains and with the dividend payments themselves, explained

Dividend.com

, a financial services website that notes "dividend stocks are not a get-rich-quick scheme" for day traders but are key to growing capital over longer periods of time, usually for several years.

Capital gains are booked as a stock's value rises. Dividend payments are awarded to shareholders, usually on a quarterly basis.

Here then is a breakdown of 10 dividend stocks increasing their shareholder payouts in recent weeks, ranked by average volume.

Johnson Controls

Johnson Controls

(JCI) - Get Report

, a provider of batteries for cars and hybrid electric vehicles, said Wednesday its board approved a 23.1% increase to its quarterly dividend.

The Milwaukee-based company will pay shareholders 16 cents per share on Jan. 4, 2011 to holders of record on Dec. 10.

Based on the higher payout, investors can expect Johnson Controls' dividend yield to be around 1.7%.

"Johnson Controls is committed to providing shareholder value, and the increase of our dividend is reflective of our financial performance and our confidence in delivering record earnings in 2011 and the future growth of the company," said CEO Stephen A. Roell. "We are proud of our legacy of paying consecutive dividends since 1887 and being able to reward our shareholders with a significantly higher dividend."

The company also told investors to expect even larger payouts "over the next several years."

On Thursday, Johnson Controls and Tokyo-based

Hitachi

( HIT) announced an agreement to work together in an effort to advance energy storage.

Prudential Financial

Prudential Financial

(PRU) - Get Report

will reward its shareholders with a 64.3% higher annual dividend payment.

The Newark, N.J.-based financial services company said earlier this month it will pay its investors an annual dividend of $1.15 per share, up from its prior payout of 70 cents per share. The new dividend will be paid on Dec. 17 to shareholders of record on Nov. 23.

Prudential's increased dividend brings its yield to 2.1%.

On Wednesday

Prudential said it had completed a secondary public offering of 18.3 million shares of its common stock, raising around $970 million.

Prudential plans to use the net proceeds of the offering to fund its previously announced acquisitions of AIG Star Life Insurance and AIG Edison Life Insurance from

American International Group

(AIG) - Get Report

.

Prudential agreed in late September to buy the Japan-based units from AIG for $4.8 billion, including $4.2 billion in cash and $600 million in the assumption of third-party debt. The deal is expected to close in the first three months of 2011.

Mattel

Toymaker

Mattel

(MAT) - Get Report

increased its annual dividend by 10.7% to 83 cents per share.

The maker of children's toys under the Barbie, Tyco and High School Musical brands said Wednesday the 2010 dividend is payable on Dec. 16 to shareholders of record on Dec. 3.

That brings its yield to 3.3%.

Mattel also said that it plans to begin paying quarterly -- rather than annual -- dividends, beginning in fiscal year 2011. The company plans to declare its quarterly dividends during quarterly earnings announcements.

Mattel has increased its share repurchase program by $500 million. The repurchases will take place from time to time depending on market conditions, the company said. The El Segundo, Calif. company has already repurchased about 117 million shares of common stock for about $2.3 billion. The program is part of a broader capital and investment plan announced in Feb. 2003.

>>Mattel Hikes Dividend; Share Repurchases

A regulatory filing published on Monday shows that billionaire

Carl Icahn's hedge fund Icahn Capital

bought 2.4 million shares of Mattel and 5 million shares of

Masco

(MAS) - Get Report

in the third quarter. During the quarter, he also unloaded the rest of his shares in

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

and

Wendy's Arby's

(WEN) - Get Report

. In 2008, Icahn waged a proxy battle against Yahoo! after the company declined

Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

buyout offer of up to $47.5 billion; he backed down after obtaining three seats on Yahoo's board.

Wendy's Arby's

Fast food chain operator

Wendy's Arby's

(WEN) - Get Report

upped its quarterly

cash dividend by half a penny per share to 2 cents. The higher dividend will be paid next on Dec. 15 to shareholders of record on Dec. 1.

The higher payout brings Wendy's yield to 1.7%.

Atlanta-based Wendy's increased dividend was announced earlier this month even as Wendy's booked a surprise quarterly loss on weaker-than-expected revenue.

>>Wendy's Disappoints With Surprise Loss

Wendy's also adjusted its forecast, saying 2010 results would likely be toward the low end of its previously announced guidance.

"These third-quarter results are simply not satisfactory to us," conceded CEO Roland Smith, who said the quarter was "a difficult one" both for its Wendy's and Arby's brands of fast food restaurants.

>>Restaurant Stocks: Earnings to Watch

Lincoln National

Lincoln National

(LNC) - Get Report

said last week its board approved a 500% increase to its quarterly dividend.

The Radnor, Pen.-based insurer will pay its investors 5 cents per share on a quarterly basis, with the next payday on Feb. 1 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Jan. 10.

Lincoln National also declared a regular dividend of 75 cents per share on its $3 Cumulative Convertible Preferred Stock Series A, payable March 5 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Feb. 11.

Lincoln National also announced a plan to repurchase up to $125 million of its common stock over a 15-month period and to redeem all $150 million in outstanding 6.75% Series F Trust Preferred Securities issued by Lincoln National Capital VI.

Earlier this month analysts at

Credit Suisse cut their estimates on Lincoln National through 2010, citing weaker group insurance underwriting and compressed universal life spreads. The firm maintained a neutral rating on Lincoln National's stock.

Comerica

Comerica

(CMA) - Get Report

will reward its shareholders with a 100% increase to its quarterly cash dividend.

The Dallas bank will pay 10 cents per share on New Year's Day to its shareholders of record on Dec. 15.

Comerica's higher payout brings it yield to 1.1%.

Comerica was featured as one of

TheStreet

's

10 Banks Likely to Boost Dividends last week. In its dividend announcement made after Monday's market close, the company also said its board of directors had authorized the repurchase of up to 12.6 million shares -- or roughly 7% of Comerica's outstanding common stock -- as well as warrants to purchase up to 11.5 million common shares.

>>Comerica Doubles Dividend

The Federal Reserve

issued guidelines Thursday saying it will require lenders to undergo stress tests on their capital levels to help it determine if and how U.S. banks will be allowed to increase dividends and engage in share buybacks.

Baxter International

Baxter International

(BAX) - Get Report

increased its dividend by 6.9%.

The medical equipment maker will pay its shareholders 31 cents per share. The higher dividend will be paid on Jan. 5 to holders of record on Dec. 10.

That brings the Deerfield, Ill.-based company's yield to 2.4%.

Baxter's dividend hike is part of its strategy to reward shareholders with its relatively strong cash flow.

In fiscal 2010 Baxter paid its investors around $2 billion, including $688 million in dividends and $1.3 billion in share repurchases.

Late last month Baxter announced it would divest its U.S. generic injectables business to Jordan's Hikma Pharmaceuticals. The deal is valued around $112 million.

Sysco

Sysco

(SYY) - Get Report

announced a

dividend increase of 4% last Friday.

Houston-based

Sysco said it will pay a penny more per share to its shareholders on a quarterly basis, paying 26 cents per share on Jan. 28 to holders of record at the close of business on Jan. 7.

The distributor of food and foodservice products recently posted better-than-expected fiscal first quarter revenue, but earnings came up short on a decline in gross profit margin and higher pension costs.

>>Sysco Stalls on Higher Pension Costs

"We understand the importance of the dividend to our shareholders and are pleased to once again increase the annual dividend," said CEO Bill DeLaney.

"Fiscal year 2011 will be the 42nd year in a row that we have paid a dividend to our shareholders -- a testament to Sysco's consistently strong balance sheet and cash flow throughout the years."

AmerisourceBergen

AmerisourceBergen

(ABC) - Get Report

boosted its quarterly dividend by 25% to 10 cents per share.

The distributor of pharmaceutical products and related health care services will pay the higher dividend on Dec. 6 to holders of record on Nov. 22, bringing its new yield to 1.3%.

AmerisourceBergen was formed through the 2001 merger of

Amerisource Health

and

Bergen Brunswig

.

On Thursday the Chesterbrook, Penn.-based company tapped Steve Collis to serve as its new president and chief operating officer. Collis previously was executive VP of AmerisourceBergen and president of

AmerisourceBergen Drug

, a subsidiary.

AmerisourceBergen recently posted a 115.1% increase in quarterly revenue to $49.9 million. Quarterly profit jumped 103.9% to $1.7 million.

As of September 30, the company had $7.3 million in cash and $52.5 million in government and bank debt.

Automatic Data Processing

Automatic Data Processing

's

(ADP) - Get Report

board approved a 5.9% increase to its quarterly cash dividend.

The private payrolls firm will pay investors 36 cents per share, to be paid next on Jan. 1 to holders of record on Dec. 10.

The increased dividend brings ADP's yield to 3.2%.

On Wednesday ADP announced it had completed the acquisition of Byte Software House, an Italy-based provider of integrated payroll, personnel administration, time management and human resources products and services.

In October ADP updated its fiscal 2011 guidance, saying it now expects total revenues to grow between 3% and 5% revenue growth, up from its prior forecast of 1% to 3% growth, due to positive results achieved during the first fiscal quarter of 2011. Including acquisitions closed during the quarter, it anticipates 7% to 8% revenue growth.

ADP now expects to post earnings per share growth between 3% and 5% in fiscal 2011, or between $2.44 and $2.49 per share, up from its prior forecast for EPS growth in the 1% to 3% range.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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