LONDON -- The FTSE 100 has set a new five-and-a-half year high today of 6,638 points, though it's back a bit from that on 6,613 by early afternoon, and that takes the index of top U.K. shares up nearly 20% over the past 12 months. But it's not the only way people make money from shares -- the FTSE 100 is offering an overall dividend yield of 3% at the moment, forecast to rise to 3.2% over the next year, and that's backed by some recent rises.
Here are three companies that have lifted their dividends this week:
J Sainsbury (LSE: SBRY ) (NASDAQOTH: JSAIY ) released annual results on Wednesday and announced a final dividend of 11.9 pence per share to lift its full-year payment by 3.7% to 16.7 pence per share -- on today's price of 380 pence, that's a yield of 4.4%. The dividend boost was made possible by a 6.2% rise in pre-tax profit to 756 million pounds, from sales that were up 4.6% to 25.6 billion pounds. Earnings per share came in at 30.7 pence, for a 9.3% rise.
Sainsbury is also set to acquire the 50% interest in Sainsbury's Bank that is currently held by Lloyds Banking Group, giving it full control -- the operation is expected to "deliver cash payback within eight years."
Sage Group (LSE: SGE ) , known for its accounting and business management software, lifted its interim dividend by 6% to 3.69 pence per share on Wednesday, after underlying earnings per share were up 15% for the six months to March 31. But for income seekers there was more, as the firm proposed a special dividend payout of 200 million pounds, which is approximately 17 pence per share -- it should take the total amount of cash returned to shareholders over the past 18 months to nearly 1 billion pounds.
For the full year, there's an analysts' consensus for a dividend of around 11 pence per share, which would provide a yield of 3.2% on the 349 pence share price.
We had full-year results from Experian (LSE: EXPN ) on Thursday, with the financial information company telling us of "considerable strategic progress with our global growth programme gaining momentum and delivering strong results." After seeing underlying pre-tax profit rise by 6% to $1,195 million, with underlying earnings per share up 9% to $0.857 , the firm announced a final dividend of $0.24 per share to take the full-year total up 9% to $0.3475 per share.
With the share price currently at 1,231 pence, that's a yield of 1.8% -- not a massive income, but we have steady rises forecast for the next two years that should take it to around 2.3% by 2015.
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.