It is interesting to note that many companies are still continuing to raise dividends in spite of the fact that other companies are reducing or eliminating dividends and Goldman Sachs remarked that Citigroup ( C) may have to drop its dividend by 40%. But what is remarkable is that Standard & Poor's stated that it expects members of the S&P 500 index to increase their dividend payments throughout the year. Stockpickr has come up with a list of the top stocks that increased dividends last week.
Spectra Energy ( SE) raised its dividend by 4.6% to 23 cents per share, providing a yield of 3.4%. This Houston-based distributor of natural gas just spent approximately $660 million on 13 new expansion projects just in time for the cold winter. The stock has a P/E of 17.5 and a PEG of 2.79. Spectra is in the portfolio of the Franklin Utilities Fund, which is managed by John Kohli and has a goal of capital appreciation and current income. The fund has had an average annual return of 20.92% over the last five years. Franklin also holds Entergy Corp. ( ETR), which yields 2.5%, Exelon Corp. ( EXC), which also yields 2.5%, and Dominion Resources ( D), with a 6.8% yield. American Financial Group ( AFG), the property and casualty insurance broker, is another company that increased its dividend, bumping it up 25% to 12.5 cents per share. The company has just challenged the allegations by the Massachusetts Attorney General relating to one insurance quote. American Financial has a P/E of 8, a PEG of .68 and a yield of 1.8%.
American Financial is owned by Legg Mason Partners Financial Services Fund, which is managed by Thomas Linkas and invests at least 80% of the portfolio in companies that provide financial services to consumers and industries. The average annual return for the fund is 12.4% for the last five years. Legg Mason also owns Bank of America ( BAC), with a 6.4% yield, JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), which has a 3.6% yield, and Assurant ( AIZ), with a 0.7% yield. An additional dividend raiser is Rogers Communications ( RCI), which doubled its dividend. Rogers, a Canadian telecommunications and media company, just signed a partnership with BzzAgent, an international advertising word-of-mouth media network. The stock has a P/E of 47, a PEG of 1.23 and a yield of 1.1%. Rogers shows up in a Stockpickr portfolio called Canadian Stocks, which lists various quality companies from "up north." Other companies in the portfolio include Petro-Canada ( PCZ), which pays a yield of 0.9%, and Research In Motion ( RIMM), which doesn't pay a dividend. To see the entire list of dividend increasers, click here.