BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- Even if it doesn't feel like it, 2012 has been a good year -- heck, even a banner year -- for stock investors. So far this year, the S&P 500 has rallied more than 12.68%, and it's only August. If that price action continued until year-end, we'd be talking about a nearly 21% year for Mr. Market.Those don't happen all that often, especially in the last decade. And dividend payouts are making up a significant part of that return right now. Dividends have tallied up to more than 12% of the S&P's returns year-to-date, a number that looks even more significant when you consider the fact that the S&P's climb hasn't exactly been a straight line. When equities fell hard in the second quarter, dividends were all that kept most investors from falling into the red. That's a valuable safety net to have. >>5 Stocks Insiders Love Right Now Dividends are also a safety net that gets more pronounced over time. According to research from Wharton Professor Jeremy Siegel, reinvested dividends account for as much as 97% of total market performance. So, it shouldn't be a big surprise that finding firms ready to boost their dividend payouts is a big priority. So today, we're scouring the stock market for a new group of big-name stocks that look ready to hike their dividend payouts in the coming quarter. In other words, these five firms are getting ready to boost dividends; they just don't know it yet. In the past few months we've had some stellar success in finding future dividend hikes just by zeroing in on a few key factors. Now we'll look at our crystal ball and try to do it again. >>5 Unloved Stocks to Crush the S&P For our purposes, that "crystal ball" is composed of a few factors: namely a solid balance sheet, a low payout ratio, and a history of dividend hikes. While those items don't guarantee dividend announcements in the next month or three, they do dramatically increase the odds that management will hike their cash payouts, especially as investors start to get antsy about this mid-2012 rally. Without further ado, here's a look at five stocks that could be about to increase their dividend payments in the next quarter.
American Electric Power
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