BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- So far, earnings season is off to a good start -- and that's a good thing for dividend investors.Even though investors have been expecting the worst for stocks' third-quarter numbers, most companies are beating Wall Street's estimates for the quarter. Around 75% of the stocks in the S&P 500, for instance, have beaten earnings estimates from analysts so far. That's an indication that analysts are still far too pessimistic right now. >>5 Stocks Under $10 Set to Soar Instead, investors have fixated on the misses. Everyone heard about the advanced earnings mistake at Google (GOOG), but fewer folks have been paying attention to the earnings wins in three quarters of the big names out there. I've said before that earnings season and dividends go hand in hand. So, if earnings are outperforming analysts' expectations, it stands to reason that dividends are too. This week, instead of chasing yield, we'll focus on stepping in front of dividend hikes for 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. >>Dow 55,000? It's Closer Than You Think 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 late-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.
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