There's no better indicator of a financially secure company than a long history of paying dividends to shareholders.
Despite the dividend-slashing trend of the past few years, several companies maintained long-standing streaks of rising dividend payments.
Bucking the trend
Many companies with long histories of paying dividends to shareholders broke those streaks during the financial crisis. General Electric cut its dividend for the first time in decades, and many financial stocks, including Citigroup and Bank of America, either eliminated dividend payments or drastically cut them.
But several companies managed not only to maintain their dividends but also to lengthen their track record of annual increases. Just take a look at some of the companies with the longest current streaks of raising their dividend payments every year:
|Stock||Current Dividend Yield||Streak of Annual Dividend Increases|
|Genuine Parts [NYSE: GPC]||3.0%||54 years|
|Emerson Electric [NYSE: EMR]||2.9%||54 years|
|3M [NYSE: MMM]||2.4%||52 years|
|Diebold [NYSE: DBD]||3.5%||57 years|
|Dover [NYSE: DOV]||2.1%||55 years|
Just think about everything these companies endured over the past half-century...
After a booming market in the 1960s, these businesses survived the oil shock and inflationary periods during the 1970s. They made it through a number of recessions, including the stagflationary slowdown in the early 1980s and the technology bust from 2000 to 2002. They watched as what used to be localized economies turned global and adapted to changes in their industries.
Through it all, they've maintained one commitment to investors: They've kept the dividends coming.
As valuable as dividend stocks are, you shouldn't get the idea that it's been a smooth ride for investors every step of the way. Although shares of companies with long dividend streaks appreciated considerably over the years, shareholders also endured bumps along the way.
As an example, take a look at the haircut that investors took on these stocks during 2008:
If you're thinking that Diebold was spared from the carnage, think again -- its big loss came a year earlier, as the stock dropped 36% in 2007.
Still -- as big as those losses were, they were less than the S&P 500's 37% drop. That suggests that at some level, investors recognize that these businesses have an above-average chance of making it through economic troubles.
More important, when high-quality stocks run into big share price declines it presents an opportunity for investors to add to their positions. As long as the core business is still intact, price dips are exactly when you want to buy.
So given their great past track record, will these companies manage to extend their current streaks to make the 100-year mark? Obviously, a lot can happen in 50 years, as we've seen with these stocks. And certainly, other promising stocks with long histories of increasing dividends have fallen short during tough times.
Yet given the challenges that these companies have successfully dealt with, there's every reason to believe that they can handle any future difficulties efficiently and effectively.
There are obviously many other companies that have several decades of consecutive dividend growth. For 2 more stocks that are official recommendations of Motley Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner from their market-beating Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter, click below.