The Dividend Aristocrats index was created by Standard and Poor’s to include companies in the S&P 500 that have increased dividends for at least 25 consecutive years. The types of companies included in the index are representative of several sectors, and thus the list is relatively well diversified. The stocks offer both capital appreciation potential, as well as a growing dividend payment. Besides being a member of the S&P 500, companies need to have a float of at least $3 billion, an average daily trading volume of $5 million and have increased distributions for at least 25 years in a row. Companies are deleted from the list if they fail to increase or cut dividends in a given year.
The index typically is rebalanced once per year in December. The number of constituents bottomed at 42 in 2010, and will increase to 50 in 2012. Recently, Standard and Poor’s announced that it would not take into account special dividends in its determination of a streak of 25 consecutive years of dividend increases. These companies were added to the index:
AT&T (NYSE:T), together with its subsidiaries, provides telecommunication services to consumers, businesses and other service providers worldwide. The company has increased dividends for 27 consecutive years. Yield: 5.9% (analysis)
HCP, Inc. (NYSE:HCP) is an independent hybrid real estate investment trust. It primarily invests in properties serving the health care industry, including sectors of health care such as senior housing, life science, medical office, hospital and skilled nursing. The company has increased dividends for 26 consecutive years. Yield: 5.5% (analysis)
Sysco Corporation (NYSE:SYY), through its subsidiaries, engages in the marketing and distribution of a range of food and related products — primarily to the foodservice or food-away-from-home industry. The company has increased dividends for 42 consecutive years. Yield: 3.7% (analysis)
Illinois Tool Works (NYSE:ITW) manufactures a range of industrial products and equipment worldwide. The company has increased dividends for 48 consecutive years. Yield: 3.3%
Genuine Parts Company (NYSE:GPC) distributes automotive replacement parts, industrial replacement parts, office products and electrical/electronic materials in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico. The company has increased dividends for 55 consecutive years. Yield: 3.5% (analysis)
Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) manufactures and sells device-based medical therapies worldwide. The company has increased dividends for 34 consecutive years. Yield: 3% (analysis)
Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL), together with its subsidiaries, manufactures and markets consumer products worldwide. The company has increased dividends for 48 consecutive years. Yield: 2.7% (analysis)
T. Rowe Price (NASDAQ:TROW) is a publicly owned asset management holding company. The company has increased dividends for 24 consecutive years. Yield: 2.4% (analysis)
Franklin Resources Inc. (NYSE:BEN) is a publicly owned asset management holding company. The company has increased dividends for 30 consecutive years. Yield: 0.9%
The only company removed from the index is CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL). CenturyLink, together with its subsidiaries, operates as an integrated communications company. The company has maintained its quarterly dividend at 72.5 cents per share for two years, which is why it is being kicked out of the index after raising distributions for 37 years in a row.
The complete listing is included below, including the company name, ticker symbol and number of consecutive years with dividend increases:
While I initially considered the Dividend Aristocrats index the cream of the crop and the first stop in my dividend research, the volume and capitalization requirements have somewhat turned me off of the index. For example, companies that have managed to raise dividends for more than a quarter of a century with a market capitalization of less than $3 billion and average daily volume of less than $5 million would not be included. This is why I prefer to use the Dividend Champions index instead. The only drawback of the Champions index is that the total returns are not calculated, whereas the total returns on the S&P Dividend Aristocrats index are.
For more information, visit DividendGrowthInvestor.com.