11 Hottest, High-Dividend Stocks Year-to-Date

by: Harry Domash

Despite the lackluster market, high-dividend investors who picked right are still smiling. Here are the 10 hottest high-dividend stocks (minimum 4% yields) in terms of year-to-date returns.

Lorillard (NYSE:LO) Year-to Date Return 37%, Yield 4.7%
Cigarette maker’s brands include Newport, Kent, and others. Most of its sales come from mentholated products. Concerns that the U.S. government might restrict or oven ban mentholated cigarette sales recently pressured its share price, but such a government action now appears unlikely.

Hickory Tech (HTCO) YTD Return 21%, Yield 4.8%
A regional telephone company, Hickory Serves 52,000 local and long-distance landline customers, 20,000 broadband Internet customers, and 10,000 digital TV subscribers in Iowa and Minnesota. Rural telephone companies like Hickory generate plenty of cash to pay dividends, but don’t offer much growth potential.

Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI) YTD 18%, Yield 5.7%
Second largest cigarette maker (Altria is largest). Brands include Camel, Kool, Winston, and Pall Mall. Also produces smokeless tobacco products under GRIZZLY and KODIAK brands.

Cinemark Holdings (NYSE:CNK) YTD 18%, Yield 4.2%
Operates more than 292 movie theaters in 39 states in the U.S. and 139 theatres in Central and South America. Business varies with the availability of big hit movies. However, not much long-term growth here.

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) YTD 18%, Yield 4.0%
World’s largest pharmaceutical maker recently acquired competitor Wyeth and generic drug maker King Pharmaceuticals. Cholesterol drug Lipitor, which represents 16% of sales, goes off patent this year.

Psychemidics (NASDAQ:PMD) YTD 16%, Yield 5.2%
Provides testing services for detecting abused substances through the analysis of hair samples. That’s a growing business. March quarter sales were up 34% vs. year-ago.

Nationwide Healthcare Properties (NYSE:NHP) YTD 16%, Yield 4.7%
This real estate investment trust (REIT) owns more than 600 properties, mostly senior housing and skilled nursing facilities, a business sector that hasn’t been hurt much by the recession.

American Software (NASDAQ:AMSWA) YTD 14%, Yield 4.7%
This small company ($195 million market-cap) provides supply chain and inventory management software systems to manufacturing companies of all sizes. With low- to mid-single digit year-over-year revenue gains, American is a slow grower.

Dominion Resources (NYSE:D) 13% 4.2%
A utility serving electricity customers in Virginia and North Carolina. natural gas customers in Ohio. Also operates natural gas pipelines and storage facilities in Ohio. In December 2010, Dominion said it plans to pay 60% to 65% of earnings in dividends, up its previous 55% target. Utilities are mostly about collecting steady dividends, with mid-single digit annual share price appreciation.

Capstead Mortgage (NYSE:CMO) 12% 12.0%
A REIT that invests in residential adjustable-rate mortgages insured by government agencies Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae. No default risk with these mortgages, but profit margins vary with the spread between the cost of funds (short-term interest rates) and mortgage rates.

AGL Resources (AGL) 12% 4.6%
Natural gas utility and wholesale distributor serving the city of Atlanta, and customers in Georgia and five other states. In December, agreed to acquire S&P 500 Index member Nicor (NYSE:GAS), which operates natural gas distributor Nicor Gas, owns a containerized shipping business serving the Caribbean region, and has interests in several energy-related businesses.

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