BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- 22.5%: That's how much S&P 500 companies have hiked dividends in the past year. While investor anxiety remains ramped up in summer 2012, dividend payouts are clearly still growing at breakneck speed.After all, companies need to do something with those record profits and cash holdings, right? It's not just a few firms that are fuelling that increase, either. Right now, a total of 402 S&P 500 components pay out dividends, the highest level since 1999. And history shows that's having a major impact on investor returns right now. >>5 Stocks Set to Soar on Earnings 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. With that, here's a look at seven stocks that hiked payouts recently.
Illinois Tool Works
General Growth Properties
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