Not a Stockpickr member? Join the community today -- for free.By Jonas Elmerraji BALTIMORE ( TheStreet) -- For dividend investors, the past week was a quiet one, with only a few companies increasing their dividends. That's no huge surprise given the fact that nearly 70 companies have already slashed their dividends in 2009. But while the week remained relatively quiet for stock dividends, a slew of funds upped their payouts to shareholders, proving that there's always a bull market somewhere. Dividends are so significant because historically companies that pay 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. That's why every week Stockpickr reviews recent dividend declarations and compiles a portfolio of dividend-increasers. These stocks represent some of the most enticing investments on the market right now. The biggest dividend increase of the past week came from Suncor Energy ( SU), which doubled its dividend, raising it to 10 cents from 5 cents. The integrated energy company, which has seen its shares jump 67% since January, traded for the first time last Monday after the acquisition of competitor Petro-Canada. Suncor is a holding of the Hartford Capital Appreciation Fund, one of the many professional portfolios tracked on Stockpickr. Other Hartford holdings include Raytheon ( RTN), which yields 2.7%; Pfizer ( PFE), which yields 3.9%; and Merck ( MRK), which yields 4.9%. Suncor, which now yields 1.2%, was recently trading up 94 cents, or 2.9%, at $33.18. The second stock that increased dividend payouts last week was telecom giant Verizon ( VZ). The company raised its dividend from 46 cents to 47.5 cents per share, a 3.3% improvement, in a move referred to by Morgan Stanley analysts as a "corporate vote of confidence in the resiliency of the telecom-services industry."
The Vanguard 500 Index, a three-star Morningstar-rated fund, owns shares of Verizon, and also of AT&T ( T), which yields 6.4%; General Electric ( GE), which yields 2.8%; and Wal-Mart ( WMT), which yields 2.1%. Verizon, which now offers investors a 6.1% dividend yield, was rising 26 cents, or 0.8%, to $31.15 recently on Thursday. Small-cap restaurant chain Frisch's Restaurants ( FRS) is the last company that raised dividends this week, increasing shareholder payouts 8.3% to 13 cents for owners of record on Sept. 10. Frisch's, which operates the Frisch's Big Boy and Golden Corral restaurants, is marking the 195th consecutive quarterly dividend paid by the company, capping off the last 60 years of uninterrupted profitable quarters. Shares of Frisch's, which now sports a 1.8% dividend yield, recently was up 3 cents at $26.78 . Beyond stocks, a number of funds -- mostly from BlackRock and Nuveen -- announced dividend hikes as well. Among them are the BlackRock Pennsylvania Strategic Municipal Trust ( BPS), which increased its dividend by 28%; the BlackRock Investment Quality Municipal Trust ( RFA), which increased its dividend by 22.8%; and the Nuveen Investment Quality Municipal Fund ( NQM), which increased its dividend by 10.2%. For the rest of this week's dividend stocks, check out the Dividend Stocks for the Week portfolio on Stockpickr. And if you haven't already done so, join Stockpickr today to create your own dividend portfolio. -- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore. Register for Stockpickr today!