Four Dividend Stocks to Buy Now

08/13/2014 9:00 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

To protect yourself against an eventual correction—whether it comes next week or next year—it's wise to have some exposure to stocks that have been consistently growing their dividends, suggests Chris Preston in Daily Profit.

This month, a number of stocks are increasing their dividend payouts. For some of them, the increase is merely the latest in a series of annual dividend hikes.

Here are four companies set to increase their dividends in the coming month—companies that have demonstrated a pattern in recent years of growing their dividends on a consistent basis.

Duke Energy (DUK)

Electric power companies are boring. So is Duke Energy's latest dividend increase. But by increasing its quarterly dividend payout 2% to $0.80 per share, this North Carolina-based energy company now boasts an appetizing 4.3% yield. It's not a mirage. Duke Energy has increased its dividend every year since 2008.

In 2012, the company decided to triple its payout from $0.25 a share to $0.76. For the most part, however, the dividend hikes have been incremental. The latest increase will be available to shareholders of record as of next Friday, August 15.

Target (TGT)

The news hasn't been very flattering for Target of late. The nation's No. 2 retailer is still feeling the effects of last year's huge data breach, which has cost the company upwards of $148 million.

Despite the massive financial hit, Target continues to pay a very generous dividend. The company has increased its payout every year since 2001. Lately, Target's dividend increases have been getting larger.

The next increase will push the quarterly payout from $0.43 a share to $0.52—a 21% improvement. Target's dividend has now tripled since 2010. The result is an attractive 3.6% yield that, at least, partially helps offset the 19% decline in the stock over the past year. The company goes ex-dividend on August 20.

The Hershey Co. (HSY)

Like its 120-year-old brand, Hershey's dividend has withstood the test of time. Though not technically a Dividend Aristocrat—a company that has increased its dividend every year for at least 25 years—Hershey is the next-best thing, having upped its dividend in 37 of the last 38 years.

The latest 10% increase will bump the quarterly payout up to $0.535 per share, and improve Hershey's yield to 2.4%. Hershey's latest dividend hike will be available to shareholders of record as of August 25.

Kellogg Co. (K)

Like the company itself, Kellogg's latest dividend increase isn't sexy at 6.5%. But it's the latest evidence of an increasingly reliable dividend machine. Kellogg has now upped its dividend every year for the last decade. The resulting 3% yield isn't bad, though the stock is basically flat year-to-date.

Still, such boring returns can often be expected from a low-beta (0.55) stock that is becoming one of the market's more reliable dividend growers. If nothing else, you can now count on Kellogg to bump up its dividend incrementally on an annual basis. Kellogg's ex-dividend date is August 28.

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