On Friday, Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) undertook its long-standing annual ritual and raised its quarterly dividend. The hike was considerable -- a 25% boost to $0.45 per share. The new payout will be distributed on Feb. 16 to stockholders of record as of Jan. 15. At the current share price, it would yield 1.7%.

Abbott is a Dividend Aristocrat, one of just 65 S&P 500 index components that has lifted its disbursement at least once annually for a minimum of 25 years running. For Abbott, this hike makes its streak an impressive 49 years.

Gloved hand holding a beaker full of money.

Image source: Getty Images.

The company's recent increases have been relatively generous, although usually not this high. Its bump last year was just under 13%; preceding hikes had been at around that level.

Such double-digit percentage raises have cemented Abbott's deservedly strong reputation as a top income stock in the healthcare sector. Since the beginning of 2015, its distribution has nearly doubled, from $0.24 per share to the current level.

"Paying a strong and growing dividend is foundational to Abbott," said CEO Robert Ford. "The increase reflects the strength and momentum of Abbott's diversified business and our ability to invest in future growth while returning immediate value to shareholders."

Unsurprisingly, Abbott's stock rose on the news, closing the trading day up by about 0.5%, in contrast to the S&P 500 index, which slipped by 0.1%.

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