When it comes to investing, timing is everything. Sell too soon or buy too late, and you've missed out on the profits that might have been. More often than not, rallies end in a wash for investors, for no other reason than poor timing.

So even though the market's currently riding a bullish high, you may want to rethink your investment strategy if it's resting on your laurels. Not that that necessarily means cashing out all your gains in one fell swoop. According to strategists, it's all about hedging your bets instead. And one way to cover your backside in a mercurial market is to look for steadier stocks, like dividend payers.

Dividend stocks initiating or raising their payouts tend to hold up better than the rest of the overall market in times of volatility. What's more, this particular moment in the current rally makes them all the more attractive.

Non-dividend stocks tend to outperform dividend payers as a bullish streak first gets off the ground. But by the second leg of the upward trajectory, it's dividend stocks that best non-dividend payers by 3%; that number jumps to 7% by the third and final phase.

According to Ed Clissold, global equity strategist at Ned Davis, "the biggest headwind for dividend stocks occurs in the very early stages of the bull market." And in Clissold's opinion, this rally has already passed the point of inflection.

Is now the right time to buy dividends? You be the judge. The following is a list of high-yield dividend companies that are raising their payouts. (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)

Dividend data sourced from AOL Money. The list has been sorted by the average dividend increase.

Company

Dividend Yield

Dividend Trends

Crestwood Midstream Partners (Nasdaq: CMLP)

6.40%

Oct. 2008 dividend at $0.35, increased to $0.39 in Oct. 2009, increased to $0.42 in Oct. 2010

Genesis Energy (NYSE: GEL)

6.62%

Oct. 2008 dividend at $0.32, increased to $0.35 in Oct. 2009, increased to $0.39 in Oct. 2010

Altria Group (NYSE: MO)

6.21%

Aug. 2008 dividend at $0.32, increased to $0.34 in Aug.2009, increased to $0.38 in Aug. 2010

Reynolds American (NYSE: RAI)

6.12%

Dec. 2008 dividend at $0.43, increased to $0.45 in Oct. 2009, increased to $0.49 in Oct. 2010

Sunoco Logistics Partners (NYSE: SXL)

5.91%

Oct. 2008 dividend at $0.97, increased to $1.07 in Oct. 2009, increased to $1.17 in Oct. 2010

Vector Group (NYSE: VGR)

8.24%

Sept. 2008 dividend at $0.35, increased to $0.38 in Sep. 2009, increased to $0.4 in Sep. 2010

Interactive Chart: Press Play to see how annual returns have fluctuated for all the stocks mentioned above.


Kapitall's Eben Esterhuizen and Alicia Sellitti do not own shares of any companies mentioned.

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