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Dividends serve as a reality check for companies and management, a form of positive feedback that helps to check speculation. Managing earnings is easy--any good accountant can do it. But distributing cold cash to shareholders requires a hard economic decision--once paid out it is irretrievable.

Dividend payments, once set, tend to stay set or rise over time, forcing a certain fiscal discipline on a company. Share-buyback plans, by contrast, may be ephemeral. More important from shareholders’ point of view, dividend yields have been essential to total investment performance during extended periods of sluggish growth in stock prices or outright market declines.

Several consistent dividend payers announced dividend increases over the past week:

  1. Kimberly-Clark Corporation (NYSE:KMB), together with its subsidiaries, engages in the manufacture and marketing of health care products worldwide. The company operates in four segments: Personal Care, Consumer Tissue, K-C Professional & Other, and Health Care. Kimberly-Clark raised its quarterly dividend by 5.70% to 74 cents/share. This dividend aristocrat has managed to raise distributions for 40 years in a row. Yield: 4.10%
  2. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) operates retail stores in various formats worldwide. Wal-Mart raised its quarterly dividend by 8.90% to 39.75 cents/share. This dividend aristocrat has managed to raise distributions for 38 years in a row. Yield: 2.60%
  3. Waste Management, Inc. (NYSE:WM), through its subsidiaries, provides waste management services to residential, commercial, industrial, and municipal customers in North America. The company raised its quarterly dividend by 4.40% to 35.50 cents/share. This dividend stock has managed to raise distributions for 10 years in a row. Yield: 4.10%
  4. WGL Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:WGL), through its subsidiaries, engages in the sale and delivery of natural gas, and provides energy-related products and services. It operates in three segments: Regulated Utility, Retail Energy-Marketing, and Design-Build Energy Systems. The company raised its quarterly dividend by 3.20% to 40 cents/share. This dividend champion has managed to raise distributions for 10 years in a row. Yield: 3.80%
  5. Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. (NYSE:TDS), a diversified telecommunications company, provides wireless and wireline telecommunications services in 36 states in the United States. Telephone and Data Systems raised its quarterly dividend by 4.30% to 12.25 cents/share. This dividend aristocrat has managed to raise distributions for 38 years in a row. Yield: 1.90%
  6. Deere & Company (NYSE:DE) provides products and services primarily for agriculture and forestry worldwide. The company raised its quarterly dividend by 12.20% to 46 cents/share. This dividend stock has managed to raise distributions for 10 years in a row. Yield: 2.10%
  7. McGrath RentCorp (NASDAQ:MGRC) operates as a business-to-business rental company in the United States. The company raised its quarterly dividend by 2.20% to 23.50 cents/share. This dividend achiever has managed to raise distributions for 20 years in a row. Yield: 3%
  8. Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE) operates as an energy services holding company worldwide. The company raised its quarterly dividend by 25% to 60 cents/share. This dividend stock has managed to raise distributions for 9 years in a row. Yield: 4.20%
  9. Teche Holding Company (NYSEMKT:TSH) operates as the holding company for Teche Federal Bank that offers various financial services in Louisiana, the United States. The company raised its quarterly dividend by 1.40% to 36.50 cents/share. This dividend achiever has managed to raise distributions for 11 years in a row. Yield: 4.10%
  10. Harris Corporation (NYSE:HRS), together with its subsidiaries, operates as a communications and information technology company that serves government and commercial markets worldwide. The company raised its quarterly dividend by 17.90% to 33 cents/share. This dividend achiever has managed to raise distributions for 11 years in a row. Yield: 3.30%
  11. Southwest Gas Corporation (NYSE:SWX) engages in the purchase, distribution, and transportation of natural gas in Arizona, Nevada, and California. The company raised its quarterly dividend by 11.30% to 29.50 cents/share. This dividend stock has managed to raise distributions for 6 years in a row. Yield: 2.80%
  12. Westar Energy, Inc. (NYSE:WR), an electric utility company, engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity. The company raised its quarterly dividend by 3.10% to 33 cents/share. This dividend stock has managed to raise distributions for 8 years in a row. Yield: 4.60%
Full Disclosure: Long KMB, WMT,
Source: 12 Dividend Stocks Offering Positive Feedback To Investors