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The holidays are approaching, and everywhere you go the sound of Christmas music can be heard, crowds pack the stores and malls, and lights and decorations light up the night sky. With the holiday season upon us, many of us occupy at least a portion of our time thinking about gifts. In addition to what gifts we should buy for others, some of us may be thinking about what gifts are out there for ourselves, and right now the stock market is offering up a number of gifts to dividend growth investors.

Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT)

Lockheed Martin is among the largest defense contractors in the world. The company is often talked about for its large-scale weapons and defense programs, but it provides much more to the federal government. While the Aerospace and Defense market is the largest segment of LMT's business it also has a presence in the IT world, and cyber-security in particular.

Over the trailing twelve months, LMT has earned $8.75/share, and trading at $91.48, shares has a TTM P/E of 10.4. Despite being in the midst of lean economic times LMT has managed to grow revenue slightly, and earnings per share by 9.4% year over year. Over the next 5 years, LMT anticipates seeing EPS grow moderately (~5% annually) despite setbacks in government spending. LMT has a $4.60 annual dividend, which at today's price equates to a 5% yield. Over the past five years the company has managed to grow the dividend 22% annually, but still pays out just 45% of earnings.

Lockheed Martin is a value and potential play. The stock is held down by uncertainty over the future of government spending, sequestration, and the pending fiscal cliff. Government spending will be slowing down over the years ahead, and a decrease will impact LMT, as it will other government contractors. However, LMT has a low valuation, a high dividend yield, a growing dividend, and the potential to bounce on any fiscal cliff deal that could be reached. I think LMT is a good opportunity for an investor looking for current or near-term yield to buy into a stock with short and long-term potential.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI)

Darden Restaurants operates a number of popular chain restaurants including: Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse, and The Capital Grille. Seemingly, DRI offers something for every taste whether it is seafood, steak or pasta. Altogether, the company operates more than 2000 restaurants and employs over 185,000 people.

DRI stock currently trades for $47.04 giving shares a TTM P/E of 12.85, slightly off the five-year average of 13.4. Over the past year, the company has grown revenue nearly 6%, and EPS by 9%. In addition the future prospects of Darden appear to be bright, with EPS growth over the next five years anticipated to come in at 11.4%. DRI pays out a $2.00 annualized dividend, which at today's price equates to a 4.25% yield on an earnings pay out of 47.7%. Over the past five years, DRI has averaged increasing the dividend by 22.6% annually, with the most recent increase coming in at 16.3%.

Darden operates a number of brands, and these brands should allow the company to remain prominent in the dining world. While the popularity of the individual brands may wax and wane, diners leaving one Darden brand may take that opportunity to walk in the door at another. Darden offers an above-average dividend yield, an investor friendly valuation, and solid growth prospects for both the share price and the dividend that certainly make it an attractive stock to watch.

CSX Corp. (NYSE:CSX)

CSX is one of two major rail operators in the eastern half of the U.S. The company operates in four major shipping segments, which include general merchandise, coal, automotive shipments, and intermodal transport. The company also generates revenue through additional services and leasing of track to regional rail operators.

Trading for $20.25 shares of CSX sport a TTM P/E ratio just over 11, well below the five-year average P/E ratio of 14.2. Over the past twelve months revenue has grown 2%, and the company has increased earnings per share by 10% despite declining coal shipments. Past performance for the company has been good, but the future also looks bright, as CSX is expected to grow EPS by 13.5% annually over the next five years. CSX pays a $0.56 annual dividend, which equates to a current dividend yield of 2.7%, and has grown the dividend nearly 23% annually over the past five years.

In my mind CSX shares still appear undervalued. I am a CSX owner, but have been adding to my position over the past week as the price has been depressed. CSX is a great long-term play. The efficiency of rail over trucking, and the growth of intermodal transport means more and more shippers will turn to rail for sending their goods long distances. Despite the headwind of sharply declining coal shipments and revenue, which are expected to continue into 2013, CSX as a company has continued to perform well. The stock, however, has underperformed significantly and offers investors a great value.

Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM)

Exxon Mobil is a classic blue-chip stock, and the world's largest energy company. The company handles all aspects of petrochemical development from the upstream capture, to the downstream refining, through distribution.

XOM currently trades for $88.00 giving shares a TTM P/E ratio of 9.29, below the five-year average of 11.29. Over the past year Exxon grew revenue by 1.6% and EPS by 14%. Exxon Mobil is expected to continue growing earnings moderately over the years ahead with projected growth just over 6%. At this point, XOM pays an annual dividend of $2.28, equating to a 2.6% yield. Paying out just 22% of earnings, XOM has plenty of room to grow the dividend, and in fact over the past five years has averaged annual growth just over 10%.

Exxon Mobil is a great stock for any investor. It provides great stability to a portfolio, and the company continues to grow earnings each year. Exxon may not blow investors away with its returns over the course of one or a few years, but long-term investors can appreciate the steady and consistent returns along with growing dividend that rewards XOM investor patience.

Conclusion

With holidays upon us maybe it is time to look beyond the mall and the online shopping stores to find the perfect gifts. The stock market just may be offering us deals that the stores could never match. Not only are these stocks trading at bargain valuations, they will begin to pay you back immediately, and pay back more and more each year. Personally I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the gift of financial independence, and what better way than teaching them the value of investing in great dividend stocks.

Disclosure: I am long CSX. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Source: Gifts From The Market: 4 Dividend Stocks To Watch During The Holiday Season