DIVIDEND

Stocks beat socks any day, so here are some gift ideas for that special someone, writes John Heinzl, reporter and columnist for Globe Investor.

What investing style does Santa prefer? Buy and ho-ho-hold, of course.

With that in mind, Yield Hog has put together a list of holiday-themed dividend growth stocks to consider for that special someone on your gift list. Imagine the surprise when little Caitlin wakes up Christmas morning to find 100 shares of Wal-Mart (WMT) or Enbridge (ENB) under the tree!

Dividend stocks are the gifts that keep on giving. Long after this year's hottest toys are forgotten and the latest electronic gadgets are piling up in a landfill, these stocks should still be cranking out dividends. And, if past trends continue, the dividends will be growing for many years to come.

I'll take that over a necktie any day. (Hint, hint.) Consider this a starting point for further research.

Tim Hortons (THI)
Dividend yield: 1.8%
5-yr. dividend growth: 24.6%

Nothing says "I love you, honey" like a Tim Hortons gift card. And nothing says "I really, really love you, honey" like a board lot of Tim Hortons shares.

Tims stock has cooled considerably—it's down more than 20% from its 52-week high—as same-store sales growth has slowed. But that's a good thing because the stock is now reasonably priced, with a forward price-to-earnings multiple of a little more than 15.

The modest yield won't make you rich, but Bloomberg estimates that Tims will boost the dividend by 19% in February.

Mattel (MAT)
Dividend yield: 3.4%
5-yr. div. growth: 10.6%

Mattel's stock has been on a roll, boosted by strong sales of Fisher-Price, American Girl, and Monster High products, which have offset weakness in Barbie and Hot Wheels. Yet the stock still trades at a reasonable 13 times estimated 2013 earnings, and the dividend is growing, with a 16% increase expected in February, Bloomberg estimates.

The toy industry has been pressured by the popularity of tablets and video games, but the growing middle class in China, India, Brazil, and Russia—where toy spending is still a fraction of that in North America—will increase demand for Mattel's products.

Enbridge (ENB)
Dividend yield: 2.9%
5-yr. div. growth: 12.9%

What does a pipeline company have to do with holiday season, you ask? Well, among other things, Enbridge owns a natural gas utility, so my family doesn't have to freeze our buns off while we open presents on Christmas morning.

What I really like about Enbridge, though, is its predictable dividend growth: With $30 billion of "secured" and "highly certain" projects on the way, the company is projecting double-digit growth in earnings and dividends for the next five years. The next dividend hike, expected this week, will be about 13%, Bloomberg estimates.

Wal-Mart (WMT)
Dividend yield: 2.2%
5-yr. div. growth: 13.5%

Wal-Mart has increased its dividend every year since making its first payment back in 1974, so the trend is your friend with the world's biggest retailer.

With its US operations back on track, Wal-Mart had its "best ever" Black Friday, just days after it reaffirmed the top end of its full-year earnings per share guidance—which, if achieved, would represent an 8.6% increase from a year earlier.

The stock's had an impressive run, but the forward P/E of 13.4 isn't out of line, and Bloomberg expects Wal-Mart to boost its dividend by about 10.7% in February.

Apple (AAPL)
Dividend yield: 1.8%
5-yr. div. growth: n/a

Caution: Apple is a volatile stock that may not be suitable for risk-averse investors.

That said, some analysts say the company is poised for a blowout quarter that could send the stock skyward. That's what happened after last year's holiday results beat expectations, and it could happen again given reports of strong iPhone 5 sales.

Apple's cash hoard of $121 billion—and growing—virtually guarantees the company will raise its dividend, which it introduced at $2.65 a quarter earlier this year. There's even talk of a special dividend to beat a potential tax increase next year, but that's not a slam dunk.

The writer personally owns shares of Enbridge, Tim Hortons, and Wal-Mart. Read more from Globe Investor here...

Tickers Mentioned: AAPL, THI, ENB, WMT, MAT

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