Three Dividend Stocks to Consider

For the third straight year, the broader U.S. stock market averages jumped out of the gate with sizable gains in January. In fact, the S&P 500's 5.04% increase in January 2013 was its best monthly start since 1997.

That said, I believe there are places where investors can still selectively put new cash to work. This is especially true for companies that consistently increase their dividends. I believe the market always pays a premium for growth and the dividend yield offers a cushion if we see a near-term pullback from recent highs.

I have identified three consumer stocks with a long track record of boosting their dividends each year during that month of February that I believe are attractive to purchase ahead of the next likely increase. Adding in the benefit of the dividend, I believe these stocks have the potential to generate double-digit investment returns in 2013, with relatively lower risk the broader market averages.

First up is Coca-Cola ( KO), which is currently trading around $37.41. The company has raised its annual dividend 50 consecutive years and I believe that management will extend the streak to 51 years around the same time it announces quarterly results on Feb. 12.

Coca-Cola currently pays a quarterly dividend of $0.255 a share, which equates to a yield of 2.7%. The company has a solid balance sheet and can comfortably cover the payout 2.1x with expected 2013 earnings of $2.17 a share. Management has delivered 9% average annual earnings growth over the past three years and the consensus analyst estimates call for that pace of profit expansion to continue for the next three years.

Up next is Colgate-Palmolive ( CL), which is currently trading around $109.00. The stock recently set an all-time high, after management delivered solid quarterly results on Jan. 31. The company also has a long track record of consistently boosting its dividend each February and I believe another increase is in the cards in the coming weeks.

Colgate-Palmolive currently pays a quarterly dividend of $0.62 a share, which works out to a yield of 2.3%. This is higher than the average yield of the S&P 500 and the benchmark 10-year Treasury note and can also be covered 2.4x with expected 2013 earnings of $5.90 a share.

Finally, I like Kimberly-Clark ( KMB), which is currently trading around $89.53. Even though the stock is changing hands near its all-time highs, the company's 3.3% yield is at the high end of the industry range.

Kimberly-Clark pays out $0.74 a share each quarter and telegraphed the 41st consecutive dividend increase last month, when management posted strong quarterly results last month. Even though the company is also trading near all-time highs, the above-average dividend yield will likely continue to attract investors as the stock moves up toward the triple digits.

David Peltier is a research associate at TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Peltier appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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