The S&P 500 has been correcting for the last few trading sessions, sending an important message to investors in the process. Put simply, dividends still matter in this market.

Year-to-date, dividends have contributed 40% of the total returns in the S&P 500. Zoom out to the last 12 months, and dividends make the difference between positive territory and still being stuck in the red. And critically, the contributions that dividends add to your portfolio only get more pronounced over time.

In fact, just over the last ten years, dividends have accounted for almost half of the S&P 500's performance, handing investors the difference between 57.5% gains, and 95.9% gains when reinvested dividends are factored in. But, to find the biggest benefit from dividends, it's not enough to simply buy names with big payouts today -- you've got to think about which names are going to be paying more tomorrow too.

So instead of chasing yield, we'll try to step in front of the next round of stock payout hikes.

For our purposes, that "crystal ball" is composed of a few factors: namely a solid balance sheet, 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 to shareholders. And they've helped us grab onto dividend hikes with a high success rate in the past.

Without further ado, here's a look at five big stocks that could be about to increase their dividend payments in the coming months. Think of it as your dividend preview.


Leading off our list is $19 billion heavy duty engine maker Cummins (CMI - Get Report) . Cummins is one of the big names in diesel and natural gas engines, selling its components to a bevy of original equipment manufacturers, including Paccar, Daimler, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles  (FCAU - Get Report) . Right now, Cummins pays out a 97.5-cent quarterly dividend check to investors, but that dividend could be heading higher in the near-term.

Cummins has been benefitting from the about-face in oil prices. Higher fuel costs mean that there's a lot of added incentive for fleet operators to upgrade to more efficient models, as well as for truck makers to simply buy Cummins' components rather than dumping huge R&D costs into their own internal programs to see similar efficiency. Cummins is the leading heavy-duty engine maker, with approximately 40% of the market here in North America. That dominance also impacts sales in light and medium-duty trucks, where the Cummins name (and its presence in bigger machines) carries extra brand weight.

Beyond Cummins' core diesel offerings, the firm has a strong foothold in the natural gas engine market, an area that's become increasingly popular given its clean burning properties and the volatility in diesel prices. Financially, this stock is in excellent shape, with $497 million in net cash and investments on its balance sheet. Cummins has paid out its 97.5-cent dividend for the last four straight quarters now, and if history is any indication, shareholders look due for a raise this summer.

Illinois Tool Works

$37 billion industrial conglomerate Illinois Tool Works  (ITW - Get Report)  is having a good year so far in 2016. This stock is up 14.7% on a total return basis year-to-date, outperforming the S&P by a big margin. ITW is another stock that typically raises its dividend payouts during the summer months. The firm has paid a 55-cent quarterly dividend for the past four quarters, making a raise look likely later this summer. Currently, that dividend check works out to a 2.1% annual yield.

Illinois Tool Works is a manufacturing company. The firm owns a large collection of industrial brands, along with a few notable consumer names; brands include names like Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances, Rain-X and Zip-Pak. Just a few years ago, ITW had approximately 800 individual divisions -- now it's down to 90. By shedding its least profitable businesses, ITW has been able to generate bigger margins and more consistent financial performance without resorting to sacrificing the biggest contributors to sales.

Historically, this company has found most of its success by being decentralized. In other words, managers of individual units have been given autonomy running their individual businesses. More recently, though, ITW has been clamping down on costs, consolidating some functions in recent quarters by minimizing duplication of roles like HR and accounting, and gaining leverage in sourcing raw materials. That should help boost margins materially in the next year without resorting to changing a company trait that's worked well for ITW shareholders in the past.

Capital One Financial

While the prospect of higher interest rates doesn't bode well for most big dividend payers right now, it would actually be a good thing for financial services giant Capital One Financial  (COF - Get Report) . That's because higher interest rates mean higher net interest margins at Capital One, a firm that has significant exposure to variable, high-rate rate products like credit card lending. So while investors are expecting the Fed to delay a rate hike this afternoon, the longer-term implications are positive for Capital One.

Even though Capital One may be best known to most consumers as a credit card issuer, the firm has been dramatically expanding its banking business since 2008, adding new loan products plus a large source of low-cost deposits through big acquisitions. As a result, the firm is one of the 10 largest banks in the U.S., based on assets. Because Capital One maintained outsized exposure to credit cards, while maintaining a solid loan book with below-average charge-offs, it stands to benefit disproportionately from a push toward higher interest rates.

At the same time, Capital One is likely to keep on sharing those benefits with shareholders. The firm's dividend hikes have been a little less predictable in the past. For instance, its payout was unchanged between 2013 and 2015, but payout hikes are likely to be more consistent going forward. Capital One currently pays out a 40-cent quarterly dividend that works out to a 2.48% indicated yield right now. Investors should look for the possibility of a higher payout this summer.

Royal Caribbean Cruises 

Sometimes, it's good to be number two. That's the message that Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL - Get Report)  is trying to get out in 2016. Despite very strong financial performance this year, Royal Caribbean has seen its share price under significant pressure - and a dividend looks like a likely way to get the message across to investors. In the meantime, Royal Caribbean pays a 37.5-cent quarterly dividend that adds up to a 2.1% yield.

Royal Caribbean is the second-largest cruise ship operator in the world, coming in after number-one player Carnival (CCL - Get Report) ). Despite its smaller size, Royal Caribbean is still a massive operator, with 42 ships spread across six brands. The firm operates under the Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara Club Cruises, Pullmantur and CDF Croisieres de France lines, as well as a 50% stake in Germany's TUI Cruises. Being the smaller of the two biggest cruise operators means that Royal Caribbean has considerable room for growth -- and it's taking delivery of bigger, more feature-packed ships, with eight deliveries scheduled by the end of 2018. That additional capacity will grow Royal Caribbean's total fleet to 130,900 berths.

Prolonged low oil prices have been a big tailwind for Royal Caribbean and its peers. And while the rebound in oil prices in 2016 has been weighing on shares, the firm is able to handle much higher prices and still be in a better place financially than it was back in 2014. Looking long-term, forecasted growth in demand for cruise vacations should be an important tailwind for Royal Caribbean's share price.

Ryder System

Last up on our list of potential dividend hikers is mid-cap transportation and supply chain logistics stock Ryder System  (R - Get Report) . Ryder is having a good year in 2016, up more than 14% on a total returns basis since the calendar flipped to January. Ryder has been benefitting from increased truck freight volumes - to avoid the capital costs of acquiring big, costly fleets, customers can lease vehicles from Ryder, allowing them to be more reactive to demand. At last count, Ryder boasts more than 231,900 vehicles globally.

Besides commercial truck leasing, Ryder also provides supply chain logistics services, both with its own fleet and with more than 40 million square feet of warehouse space. The firm is involved in every stop in the process, including maintenance services, short-term rentals, and logistics planning. Since Ryder is able to present a compelling case for customers not to lay out a ton of capital with purchases, it's able to rent, lease and provide other recurring services instead at attractive margins.

Ryder's business is capital intense, but the firm has managed to maintain a reasonably leveraged balance sheet. Likewise, the firm has kept its focus on returning capital to shareholders with 11 dividend increases since 2005. The next one is likely to hit later this summer. For the time being, Ryder pays out a 41-cent quarterly dividend check that adds up to a 2.56% yield.

Disclosure: This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.