The news came amid strong earnings growth -- from $1.4 million last year to $2.3 million in the most recent period. Pennichuck is a holding company involved in the supply and distribution of potable water in New Hampshire through its three regulated water utilities. It has seen decent growth even in a tough economic environment. Shares have outperformed the market with 14% gains year to date, compared with about 10% for the Dow this year.

Kimco Dividend Increase

Kimco Realty ( KIM), another real estate investment trust, raised its quarterly dividend 12.5% last week from 16 cents to 18 cents. The annualized dividend gives Kimco a new yield of nearly 4%. The latest Kimco dividend is payable Jan. 18 to shareholders of record Jan. 3.

Kimco Realty owns and operates community shopping centers across North America. The company has been turning around, despite a drop in earnings reported last week. Shares of KIM stock are up more than 30% this year.

Nationwide Health Properties Dividend Increase

Nationwide Health Properties ( NHP) announced a nominal dividend increase last week, boosting the payout by a penny from 46 cents to 47 cents a share. The dividend will be paid on Dec. 3 to stockholders of record Nov. 19, and the yield is unchanged at around 4.6% for NHP stock.

Nationwide Health Properties is a real estate investment trust with interests in 300 senior housing facilities, 120 medical office buildings and seven specialty hospitals. NHP stock has outperformed the market in 2010, jumping over 15% year-to-date.

Universal Corp. Dividend Increase

In another nominal increase, Universal Corp. ( UVV) hiked its quarterly dividend by a penny from 47 cents to 4 cents. The tobacco processor has a yield of about 4.4%. The most recent dividend increase will be payable Feb. 14 to shareholders of record Jan. 10. Though tiny, Universal's dividend increase marks its 40th consecutive annual increase and a history of payouts dating back to 1927.

UVV stock has underperformed the market recently, and that was reflected in earnings last week. Fully diluted earnings per share totaled $2.65 for the first half of Universal Corp.'s fiscal year, compared with $3.23 in last year's record performance for the company. Shares are up slightly in 2010, lagging the market and other tobacco stocks like Altria ( MO), Lorillard ( LO) and others that are up against new 52-week highs seemingly every week.

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