BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- Dividend junkies rejoice: In the last year, the S&P 500 has seen its total dividend payout increase by 16.4%. Even the staid stocks of the Dow have ratcheted their dividends 12% higher in the past 12 months. Those are some impressive increases for the folks who rely on dividend income.That's even more impressive when you compare the payouts on dividend stocks with the negative real yields flight-to-quality investments like treasuries are offering right now. In years past, plenty of investors have ignored dividends, preferring instead to look for companies that could offer up big capital gains. Now, with the crash of 2008 still somewhat fresh in investors' memories, people are realizing that dividend stocks can be an attractive place to allocate their portfolios. Better yet, folks are starting to realize that dividends and capital gains aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, they go hand in hand. >>5 Big Stocks to Trade for Gains So far in 2012, the S&P has rallied 8.61% in price alone. But with dividends factored in, those returns climb to 9.08% -- in only two full months. That means that if the S&P got stopped dead in its tracks for the rest of the year, dividends would make up a full third of total returns for the year. Given the strength of Mr. Market's performance this year, that's quite a feat. But it's also not uncommon: Over the last 36 years, dividend stocks have 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 data compiled by Ned Davis Research. The numbers are even more compelling when looking at companies that consistently increase their payouts. That's why we pay close attention to the firms that are shoveling more corporate cash to shareholders each week. With that, here's a look at seven of the stocks that hiked payouts in the last week.
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