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There are a few important ideas to keep in mind when evaluating dividend stocks. If you want to be able to rely on a company’s dividend yield in the future, be sure to check whether companies have these positive dividend trends.

Dividend yields above 7% can be considered unsustainably high. Payout ratios above 35% can also be considered unsustainably high. When a company’s dividend is being raised and their payout ratio falls, it is an especially good sign because it implies that dividend payments are being raised, and earnings are rising, without any compromise to dividend sustainability.

It is also important to consider cash coverage of the company’s dividend – after all, a company’s dividend is paid in cash.

We ran a screen on large-cap dividend stocks exhibiting these trends: increases in dividend per share with a falling payout ratio over the same period. We also screened for healthy dividend coverage, comparing the trailing-twelve-month operating cash flow per share to the TTM dividend per share.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the top six stocks mentioned below. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.

We also created a price-weighted index of the stocks mentioned below, and monitored the performance of the list relative to the S&P 500 index over the last month. (To access a complete analysis of this list's recent performance, click here.)

Do you think these stocks pay reliable dividend yields? Use this list as a starting-off point for your own analysis. (List sorted by dividend yield.)

1. Prudential plc (NYSE:PUK): Life Insurance Industry. Market cap of $23.64B. Dividend yield at 4.44%, payout ratio at 34.70%. Current year dividend per share estimate at $0.82 vs. last year dividend per share at $0.79. TTM payout ratio at 34.70% vs. 3-year average at 71.88%. TTM operating cash flow per share at $3.72 vs. TTM dividend per share at $0.83. Might be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.86, and P/FCF ratio at 6.23. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 8.26% over the last week.

2. The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation (NYSE:BK): Asset Management Industry. Market cap of $23.36B. Dividend yield at 2.74%, payout ratio at 18.68%. Current year dividend per share estimate at $0.51 vs. last year dividend per share at $0.36. TTM payout ratio at 18.68% vs. 3-year average at 71.18%. TTM operating cash flow per share at $4.22 vs. TTM dividend per share at $0.40. Might be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.72, and P/FCF ratio at 5.59. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 5.2% over the last week.

3. Tyco International Ltd. (NYSE:TYC): Diversified Machinery Industry. Market cap of $17.57B. Dividend yield at 2.64%, payout ratio at 30.50%. Current year dividend per share estimate at $0.98 vs. last year dividend per share at $0.86. TTM payout ratio at 30.50% vs. 3-year average at 249.82%. TTM operating cash flow per share at $5.33 vs. TTM dividend per share at $0.99. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 6.78% over the last week.

4. U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB): Regional Banks Industry. Market cap of $39.49B. Dividend yield at 2.43%, payout ratio at 16.75%. Current year dividend per share estimate at $0.48 vs. last year dividend per share at $0.20. TTM payout ratio at 16.75% vs. 3-year average at 43.96%. TTM operating cash flow per share at $5.24 vs. TTM dividend per share at $0.35. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 6.16% over the last week.

5. MetLife, Inc. (NYSE:MET): Life Insurance Industry. Market cap of $32.92B. Dividend yield at 2.38%, payout ratio at 32.87%. Current year dividend per share estimate at $0.91 vs. last year dividend per share at $0.74. TTM payout ratio at 32.87% vs. 3-year average at 47.89%. TTM operating cash flow per share at $10.76 vs. TTM dividend per share at $0.74. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 6.4% over the last week.

6. Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC): Money Center Banks Industry. Market cap of $123.34B. Dividend yield at 2.05%, payout ratio at 7.65%. Current year dividend per share estimate at $0.49 vs. last year dividend per share at $0.20. TTM payout ratio at 7.65% vs. 3-year average at 31.05%. TTM operating cash flow per share at $5.74 vs. TTM dividend per share at $0.34. Might be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.7, and P/FCF ratio at 4.42. The stock has performed poorly over the last month, losing 20.14%.

7. ASML Holding NV (NASDAQ:ASML): Semiconductor Equipment and Materials Industry. Market cap of $14.18B. Dividend yield at 1.78%, payout ratio at 5.79%. Current year dividend per share estimate at $0.67 vs. last year dividend per share at $0.57. TTM payout ratio at 5.79% vs. 3-year average at 19.59%. TTM operating cash flow per share at $7.53 vs. TTM dividend per share at $0.57. Might be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.64, and P/FCF ratio at 5.2. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 7.25% over the last week.

8. Covidien plc (NYSE:COV): Medical Instruments and Supplies Industry. Market cap of $23.60B. Dividend yield at 1.67%, payout ratio at 21.92%. Current year dividend per share estimate at $0.78 vs. last year dividend per share at $0.74. TTM payout ratio at 21.92% vs. 3-year average at 25.24%. TTM operating cash flow per share at $4.65 vs. TTM dividend per share at $0.80. The stock has gained 27.69% over the last year.

9. American Express Company (NYSE:AXP): Mortgage Investment Industry. Market cap of $53.09B. Dividend yield at 1.62%, payout ratio at 18.88%. Current year dividend per share estimate at $0.73 vs. last year dividend per share at $0.72. TTM payout ratio at 18.88% vs. 3-year average at 28.90%. TTM operating cash flow per share at $7.71 vs. TTM dividend per share at $0.72. The stock has performed poorly over the last month, losing 15.42%.

Dividend data, payout data, and operating cash flow per share sourced from Screener.co; all other data sourced from Finviz.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Source: 9 Large Caps With Rising Dividends And Falling Payouts