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There was a record number of consistent dividend payers that announced dividend increases over the past week. As a result, in order to make this information more readable, I have segregated the stocks that raised distributions into four groups: Dividend champions, dividend achievers, potential dividend achievers and master limited partnerships.

Dividend Champions

Dividend champions are companies which have raised distributions for over 25 consecutive years.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) engages in the research and development, manufacture, and sale of various products in the healthcare field worldwide. The company operates in three segments: Consumer, Pharmaceutical, and Medical Devices and Diagnostics. Johnson & Johnson raised its quarterly dividend by 5.60% to 57 cents/share. This dividend champion has raised distributions for 49 years in a row. Yield: 3.50%.

ExxonMobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) engages in the exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas, and manufacture of petroleum products, as well as transportation and sale of crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products. ExxonMobil raised its quarterly dividends by 6.80% to 47 cents/share. This dividend aristocrat has managed to consistently raise dividends for 29 years in a row. Yield: 2.10%.

W.W. Grainger, Inc. (NYSE:GWW) and its subsidiaries distribute facilities maintenance and other related products and services in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Mexico. W.W. Grainger raised its quarterly distributions by 22.20% to 66 cents/share. Yield: 1.80% (analysis here).

American States Water Company (NYSE:AWR), through its subsidiaries, provides water, electric, and contracted services in the United States. The company raised its quarterly distribution by 7.70% to 28 cents/share. This dividend champion has raised distributions for 57 years in a row. Yield: 3.20%.

The Gorman-Rupp Company (NYSEMKT:GRC) engages in the design, manufacture, and sale of pumps and related fluid control products worldwide. The company raised its quarterly distribution by 7.10% to 11.25 cents/share. This dividend champion has raised distributions for 38 years in a row. Yield: 1.10%.

California Water Service Group (NYSE:CWT), through its subsidiaries, provides water utility and other related services in California, Washington, New Mexico, and Hawaii. The company raised its quarterly distribution by 3.40% to 11.25 cents/share. This dividend champion has raised distributions for 45 years in a row. Yield: 3.30%.

Parker Hannifin Corporation (NYSE:PH) manufactures fluid power systems, electromechanical controls, and related components. The company raised its quarterly distribution by 15.60% to 11.25 cents/share. This dividend champion has raised distributions for 55 years in a row. Yield: 1.60%.

Dividend Achievers

Dividend achievers are companies which have raised distributions for at least ten years in a row.

Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), through its subsidiaries, engages in petroleum, chemicals, mining, power generation, and energy operations worldwide. It operates in two segments, Upstream and Downstream. The company raised its quarterly dividends by 8.30% to 78 cents/share. This dividend achiever has raised distributions for 24 years in a row. Yield: 2.90%.

International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE:IBM) provides information technology products and services worldwide. The company raised its quarterly dividends by 15.40% to 75 cents/share. This dividend achiever has raised distributions for 16 years in a row. Yield: 1.80%.

Cullen/Frost Bankers, Inc. (NYSE:CFR) , through its subsidiaries, provides various banking and financial products and services primarily in Texas. The company raised its quarterly dividends by 2.20% to 46 cents/share. This dividend achiever has raised distributions for 18 years in a row. Yield: 3.10%.

Imperial Oil Ltd. (NYSEMKT:IMO) engages in the exploration, production, and sale of crude oil and natural gas in Canada. The company raised its quarterly dividends by 10% to 11 cents/share. This international dividend achiever has raised distributions for 19 years in a row. Yield: 0.90%.

PartnerRe Ltd. (NYSE:PRE), through its subsidiaries, provides reinsurance solutions worldwide. The company raised its quarterly dividends by 9.10% to 60 cents/share. This dividend achiever has raised distributions for 18 years in a row. Yield: 3%.

UGI Corporation (NYSE:UGI), through its subsidiaries, distributes and markets energy products and related services in the United States and internationally. The company raised its quarterly dividends by 4% to 26 cents/share. This dividend achiever has raised distributions for 24 years in a row. Yield: 3.10%.

Artesian Resources Corporation (NASDAQ:ARTNA), through its subsidiaries, provides water, wastewater, and engineering services on the Delmarva Peninsula. The company raised its quarterly dividends by 0.50% to 19.02 cents/share. This dividend achiever has raised distributions for 14 years in a row. Yield: 3.90%.

Valmont Industries, Inc. (NYSE:VMI) produces fabricated metal products; pole and tower structures; and mechanized irrigation systems in the United States and internationally. The company raised its quarterly dividends by 9.10% to 18 cents/share. This dividend achiever has raised distributions for 11 years in a row. Yield: 0.70%.

Master Limited Partnerships

Master limited partnerships are pass-through entities, most of which have operations in the energy sector. Master limited partnerships in the energy sector are mostly involved in oil and gas distribution through pipelines, although there are others which are involved in exploration and production, storage and processing of energy products.

AmeriGas Partners, L.P. (NYSE:APU), through its subsidiary, AmeriGas Propane, L.P., operates as a retail propane distributor in the United States. This MLP raised quarterly distributions to 74.50 cent/unit. Amerigas Partners has raised distributions for six years in a row. Yield: 6.20%.

Energy Transfer Equity, L.P. (NYSE:ETE), through its direct and indirect investments in the limited partner and general partner interests in Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., engages in midstream, intrastate, and interstate transportation of natural gas, as well as in storage of natural gas in the United States. This MLP raised quarterly distributions to 56 cent/unit. Energy Transfer Equity, L.P. has raised distributions for five years in a row. Yield: 4.90%.

Holly Energy Partners, L.P. (NYSE:HEP) operates a system of petroleum product and crude oil pipelines, storage tanks, distribution terminals, and loading rack facilities. This MLP raised quarterly distributions to 85.50 cent/unit. Holly Energy Partners, L.P. has raised distributions for seven years in a row. Yield:6.30%.

Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P. (NYSE:MMP), together with its subsidiaries, engages in the transportation, storage, and distribution of refined petroleum products in the United States. This MLP raised quarterly distributions to 77 cent/unit. Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P. has raised distributions for 11 years in a row. Yield:5%.

Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (NYSE:SXL) engages in the transport, terminalling, and storage of refined products and crude oil, as well as the purchase and sale of crude oil in the United States. This MLP raised quarterly distributions to $1.195/unit. Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. has raised distributions for 10 years in a row. Yield: 5.40%.

DCP Midstream Partners, LP (NYSE:DPM), together with its subsidiaries, engages in gathering, compressing, treating, processing, transporting, storing, and selling natural gas in the United States. This MLP raised quarterly distributions to 62.50 cent/unit. DCP Midstream Partners, LP has raised distributions for six years in a row. Yield: 5.70%.

Future Dividend Achievers

As a rule, I only invest in dividend stocks that have raised dividends for at least 10 consecutive years. Otherwise, investors could get whipsawed by short-term dividend raises which were caused by some temporary increase in business activity. A 10-year period covers at least two cycles of economic expansion and contraction. Dividend paying companies that can afford to increase dividends through thick and thin are the ones to research further.

Arch Coal, Inc. (NYSE:ACI) engages in the production and sale of steam and metallurgical coal from surface and underground mines to power plants, steel mills, and industrial facilities in the United States. The company raised its distributions paid to stockholders by 10% to 11 cents/share. This marked the eight consecutive annual dividend increase for the company. Yield: 1.30%.

Ameriprise Financial, Inc. (NYSE:AMP), through its subsidiaries, provides financial planning, products, and services primarily in the United States. The company raised its distributions paid to stockholders by 27.80% to 23 cents/share. This marked the seventh consecutive annual dividend increase for the company. Yield: 1.50%.

BOK Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:BOKF), a financial holding company, provides various financial products and services to commercial and industrial customers, and other financial institutions and consumers in the United States. The company raised its distributions paid to stockholders by 10% to 27.50 cents/share. This marked the seventh consecutive annual dividend increase for the company. Yield: 2.10%.

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) provides products, services, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding, and technical service sectors. The company raised its distributions paid to stockholders by 6.40% to 50 cents/share. This marked the eight consecutive annual dividend increase for the company. Yield: 3.20%.

The Williams Companies, Inc. (NYSE:WMB), through its subsidiaries, engages in finding, producing, gathering, processing, and transporting natural gas primarily in the United States. The company raised its distributions paid to stockholders by 60% to 20 cents/share. This marked the ninth consecutive annual dividend increase for the company. Yield: 2.50%.

Donegal Group Inc. (NASDAQ:DGICA), through its subsidiaries, provides personal and commercial lines of property and casualty insurance products to businesses and individuals in the United States. The company raised its distributions on it’s A shares by 4.30% to 12 cents/share. The company raised its distributions on its B shares by 4.90% to 10.75 cents/share. The yield on A shares is 3.60%, whereas the yield on the B shares is 2.60%. This marked the ninth consecutive annual dividend increase for the company.

Columbia Sportswear Company (NASDAQ:COLM) engages in the design, sourcing, marketing, and distribution of outdoor apparel, footwear, and related accessories and equipment in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, the Asia Pacific, and Canada. The company raised its quarterly distributions by 10% to 22 cents/share. Yield: 1.30%.

Full Disclosure: Long JNJ, GWW, CVX, XOM