LONDON -- The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE ) has had a rough week, having lost 101 points to finish Thursday at 6,389. That brought to an end a 12-day run of closing over the 6,400 level -- with three of those days above 6,500. However, today the index has made a turnaround, up 0.3% to 6,408 as of 7:55 a.m. EDT.
But when markets are erratic, long-term investors often take comfort from their dividends, which are unaffected by short-term sentiment. The average FTSE 100 payout is about 3.1%, but many companies offer more. Here are three that have flashed the cash this week.
Greggs (LSE: GRG )
High-street baker Greggs raised its full-year dividend on Wednesday for the 28th consecutive year! Sure, it was only a 1% rise to 19.5 pence per share, but it's still an impressive record. The 19.5 pence represented a 3.7% yield on Tuesday's closing share price of 523 pence. But since mixed results were released, showing pre-tax profit down 2.2%, the price has fallen to 484 pence, lifting the yield to 4%.
The dividend was well covered, and with forecasts suggesting a 6.6% rise for the 2013 payment, something pretty bad would have to happen for Greggs not to extend its run to 29 years.
Smiths Group (LSE: SMIN )
Diversified engineer Smiths Group upped its interim dividend on Wednesday by 6% to 12.5 pence per share -- even though first-half earnings only rose by 1% to 40 pence per share. If the firm should lift its final dividend by the same proportion, it would pay out a total of about 40.3 pence per share for the year to July 2013 for a yield of 3.1% -- and that's higher than the 39.8 pence currently forecast by City analysts.
The share price perked up to 1,330 pence on the day of the interims, though it settled back to end Thursday at 1,284 pence. But after a strong rise since November, the shares are still up nearly 25% over the past 12 months.
NEXT (LSE: NXT )
On Thursday, high-street clothing retailer NEXT lifted its annual dividend for the fourth consecutive year, announcing a payment of 105 pence per share compared with last year's 90 pence. That's a rise of 16.7% after underlying EPS rose by 16.6% to 297.7 pence.
The dividend, which amounted to a yield of 2.5% on Wednesday's closing price of 4,158 pence, made up part of the 390 million pounds that the company returned to shareholders for the year; the rest took the form of a buyback of 7.5 million shares. NEXT shares rose on the results, reaching 4,314 pence by the end of the day.
Finally, if you're looking for top investment ideas, it could well pay to take a close look at what Neil Woodford is buying. The ace investor, whose Invesco Perpetual High Income fund would have turned 10,000 pounds into 193,000 pounds since its launch in 1988, remains bullish on the aerospace and defense sector. If you want to learn more, check out the Fool's latest examination of Woodford's holdings. But hurry, because the report will be available for a limited period only. Click here to enjoy your copy today.