NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Looking for yield? Look no further than stocks making news this earnings season, as scores of companies post quarterly results and trading activity tends to be more volatile.
What dividend investors are most focused on in earnings is growth. The ability to grow earnings and cash flow allows a company to grow its dividend over time. By reinvesting these dividends, investors can develop a portfolio that can outperform the broader market over time with less overall risk.
With that in mind, here are the three best S&P 500 dividend stocks to post results so far for the first quarter of 2015. Each stock yielded at least 2%, exceeded earnings and sales estimates and is showing positive earnings growth. These companies can continue to grow their dividends and outperform their peers over the next several quarters. (See more solid dividend stocks to invest in at Dividend Stock Advisor.)
Hasbro posted better-than-expected quarterly results on Monday. The toy maker earned $0.21 a share in the first quarter, as revenue grew 5% year over year, to $713.5 million. This growth came despite a $62.6 million impact from foreign exchange, as the company generates 51% of its sales outside of North America. Management has been able to offset some of this impact by raising prices.
Hasbro boosted its quarterly dividend in February for the sixth consecutive year to $0.46 a share giving it a 2.6% yield. Investors at the close of trading on April 28 will qualify for the latest payment on May 15.
Management is set to grow earnings more than 3% in 2015, to $3.26 a share, which is enough to cover the current dividend. In addition, the company has $475 million remaining in its stock buyback program, which at current prices would amount to a buyback of 6.6 million shares.
Hasbro shares have gained a sizable 30% year to date. That said, the company has strong operating momentum and is gaining both market share and investor mindshare from chief competitor Mattel (MAT) - Get Mattel, Inc. Report, which may have to cut its own 5.4% dividend yield in the next year.
2. Linear Technology (LLTC)
Linear Technology, a manufacturer of semiconductor components, delivered quarterly results on last week that exceeded consensus analyst estimates. The company earned $0.55 a share for the third quarter of fiscal 2015 that ended March 31, as revenue increased 7% year over year, to $372 million.
Growth was driven by higher demand in key markets such as in the industrial and automotive sectors. Linear also booked more future orders in the quarter than it billed as revenue, which is a key metric in the chip business. In addition, the company expanded its operating margin by 180 basis points from the quarter that ended on Dec. 28.
Linear increased its quarterly dividend for the 23rd consecutive year in January, to $0.30 a share, giving it a 2.5% yield. Investors at the close of trading on May 12 will qualify for the new payment on May 27. In addition, management consistently repurchases stock. The company is expected to grow earnings more than 8% in for all of the fiscal 2015 year, which will end June 30, to $2.34 a share.
The stock has kept pace with the broader market year to date. Management should continue to deliver consistent growth in the coming quarters. Linear should be able to outperform the broader market for the remainder of 2015.
3. Reynolds American (RAI)
Reynolds American announced better-than-expected quarterly results last week. The tobacco producer earned $0.86 a share in the first quarter as revenue grew 6%, to $2.06 billion, from the tally in the previous year's period. The growth was driven by higher pricing.
The company is in the process of merging with tobacco producer Lorillard (LO) , which is best known for its Newport brand. The deal is expected to close by the end of June. The increased scale should allow the combined company to better compete with Altria (MO) - Get Altria Group Inc Report.
Reynolds has increased its dividend for five straight years and Lorillard just boosted its payout in February. The combined company should deliver steady dividend growth over time. Reynolds is set to post 12.5% earnings growth in 2015, which would result in earnings of $3.85 a share. This is enough to cover the current quarterly dividend of $0.67 a share, resulting in a 3.5% yield for the stock.
The stock price of Reynolds has gained more than 18% year to date and recently touched a new record high. As Reynolds and Lorillard begin to realize the synergies of their pending merger, the combined company will continue to outperform the broader market.