Dividend-paying companies are an oasis in the desert of underperforming stocks. They offer solid payouts today and the promise of capital gains tomorrow. According to a study by Ibbotson, reinvested dividends made up about 40% of total stock returns from 1926 to 2006. In fact, dividend investing is so appealing that superinvestor Warren Buffett has made it a significant component of his portfolio.

When searching for great dividend stocks, it makes a lot of sense to start with companies that have been playing the dividend game the longest. Standard & Poor's has culled the dividend winners from the also-rans in a list it calls the "dividend aristocrats."

Let's examine the top 25 fastest-growing yields among these dividend aristocrats. For context, I've also included their trailing yield.


5-Year Average Annual Dividend Growth Rate


CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) 63.9% 8.4%
Lowe's (NYSE: LOW) 29.7% 2.9%
McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) 28.9% 2.8%
Walgreen (NYSE: WAG) 21.9% 2.6%
Target (NYSE: TGT) 20.1% 2.5%
AFLAC (NYSE: AFL) 19.7% 3.2%
W.W. Grainger (NYSE: GWW) 17.7% 1.9%
Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) 15.6% 2.9%
Automatic Data Processing (Nasdaq: ADP) 14.9% 3%
Clorox (NYSE: CLX) 14.4% 3.5%
Becton, Dickinson (NYSE: BDX) 14.2% 2%
PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) 12.6% 3.3%
VF Corp (NYSE: VFC) 12.2% 2.3%
Ecolab (NYSE: ECL) 11.9% 1.5%
Hormel Foods (NYSE: HRL) 11.5% 1.8%
Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) 11.4% 3.4%
Sigma-Aldrich (Nasdaq: SIAL) 11.2% 1.1%
Archer-Daniels-Midland (NYSE: ADM) 10.9% 2.3%
Family Dollar Stores (NYSE: FDO) 10.9% 1.5%
Leggett & Platt (NYSE: LEG) 10.7% 5.6%
Chubb (NYSE: CB) 10.3% 2.6%
Air Products & Chemicals (NYSE: APD) 10.1% 2.8%
Dover (NYSE: DOV) 10.1% 2.3%
Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) 10% 3.9%
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) 9.9% 3.6%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

These aren't formal recommendations -- just ideas for your own further research. Still, they could give you a great start toward find companies capable of paying rising dividends for a quarter-century or more. You can find the list of highest yields here.

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