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After reviewing new dividend levels for Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), based on the recent 16% hike in the payout, I thought I'd take a look at the payout ratio for this stock and four others in the technology sector. Remember, dividend increases are great for investors, but you also have to check to see if the company can continue doing so. If the ratio of dividend to earnings gets too high, there's a risk that the company might stop raising its payments, or even cut them. So let's start with Qualcomm.

Qualcomm

Current yield: 1.40%

That yield figure above is based on the current 86 cent annual payout. With an expected dividend of $1, the dividend yield would be more like 1.62%. Although the dividend has been raised by an average of 23% per year since 2004, the payout ratio is approximately 30%, showing the company can probably afford to keep up the pace of raising payments.

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

Current yield: 3.15%

Intel has been raising its payments at about the same clip as Qualcomm. During the 2007 to 2009 period, the payout ratio was quite high, but has now returned to around 35%, so I would expect continued dividend raises in the years ahead.

IBM (NYSE:IBM)

Current yield: 1.52%

IBM has been a great stock for dividend investors, with payments more than tripling since 2004. While the current yield is about 1.52%, an investment back in 2004 would yield more than 3.6% on your cost basis if you'd reinvested those dividends, The payout ratio is still a very reasonable 20%. I expect this dividend to keep rising, too.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)

Current yield: 2.53%

MSFT investors have finally been rewarded with a higher share price, with the stock now at post-2008 highs. And the dividend has been rising at an average rate of more than 25% per year. What's more, it appears as if the company can continue to raise those payments. (Note that the chart below does not include the 2004 special dividend).

Hewlett Packard (NYSE:HPQ)

Current yield: 1.98%

This company has been through a lot lately, like three CEOs over the past couple of years. The company has made an effort to raise its dividend; and as you can see, its payout ratios have been fairly low. Patient HPQ investors might see double-digit percentage increases to the dividend in the future, especially if the company can gain traction again.

Of these stocks, I own IBM, Intel, and Qualcomm. I'd consider Microsoft, but I'm less inclined to buy HPQ.

Source: Dividend Payout Ratio Charts On 5 Tech Stocks