2012's 5 Best Dividend Stocks

01/15/2013 7:45 am EST


Now that the fiscal cliff has been cleared-at least partially-investors can get back to looking for solid dividends and healthy dividend growth, observes Chris Preston of The Daily Profit.

If you own dividend stocks, these past few months have been hell.

Upon his reelection, President Obama vowed to raise taxes on dividend income substantially as part of his fiscal cliff compromise. His initial plan was to nearly triple dividend taxes for families making more than $250,000.

So income investors everywhere breathed a sigh of relief this week when Congress' deal to avoid the fiscal cliff only raised dividend taxes from 15% to 20%-and only for individuals earning more than $400,000 a year. It's an increase-but not the cataclysmic one that people were expecting.

That bodes well for dividend stocks in 2013. But before we look ahead, let's look back at five of the best performing dividend stocks of 2012:

General Electric (GE): One of the "Dogs of the Dow," General Electric shares shot up 17% last year, at one point eclipsing $23 for the first time since 2008. Not bad for a dividend stock with a 3.6% yield.

AT&T (T): Another Dow Dog, AT&T surged 11.5% in 2012. It currently boasts a yield of 5.3%, and will be upping its quarterly dividend by a penny next Wednesday.

Eli Lilly (LLY): This drug manufacturing giant saw its shares jump more than 18% last year. At $49.60 a share, the stock has fallen off quite a bit from its $53.81 high in mid-October. All told, however, it was a banner year for one of the healthcare sector's top dividend stocks.

Terra Nitrogen (TNH): One of the top fertilizer producers in the country, this agriculture stock soared in 2012, gaining 27%. With an attention-grabbing yield of 7.7%, this is one mid-cap dividend payer that's worth tracking.

BHP Billiton (BHP): A dividend stock that my colleague Kevin McElroy frequently writes about, this miner of gold, copper, silver, and coal saw its shares rise more than 20% last year. Such hefty returns, plus its generous 3.2% dividend yield, make BHP one of the more attractive commodities stocks on the market.

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