BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- Throw a dart at a board of S&P 500 stocks, and you're more likely to hit a dividend payer today than at any other time in the last decade. Right now, more than 400 S&P constituents pay dividends -- the biggest percentage of payers in the index since all the way back in 2000.That's a big factor in the record dividend payouts investors are taking home this year. Companies are bringing on the dividends right now, tapping their record cash reserves and record profits to pay investors in 2012. In the last year alone, dividend payouts in the S&P 500 have climbed by an impressive 30.8% as management tried to incentivize investors to hold onto their positions. A lot of that growth has come from new payers, who are returning cash to shareholders for the first time. >>5 Stocks Insiders Love Right Now That growing trend toward dividends bodes well for investors' portfolios in more ways than one. While the inflow of dividend cash is never a bad thing, the fact of the matter is that dividend payers historically offer investors a whole lot more bang for their buck on an capital gains basis too: That's because 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 doling 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, each week, we pay close attention to the firms that are shoveling more corporate cash to shareholders. With that, here's a look at seven stocks that hiked payouts in the last week.
International Business Machines
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