NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Starwood Hotels ( HOT), Nike ( NKE) and Campbell Soup ( CPB) joined a roster of companies raising their shareholder payouts in recent weeks . Dividend activity has picked up in recent months 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), an exchange-traded fund that tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Select Dividend Index, is up nearly 9% so far in 2010, and up nearly 12% year-over-year.
With record cash in corporate coffers, investors have been egging on corporate management teams to return value to shareholders in the form of dividend checks, and a growing number of companies are listening. Over the last 36 years, dividend stocks outperformed the rest of the S&P 500 by 2.5% annually, and they outperformed nonpayers by nearly 8% every year, all while paying out cash to their shareholders, according to a study from National Data Research. 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, explaines 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 is a breakdown of 10 dividend stocks increasing their shareholder payouts in recent weeks, ranked by average volume.