S&P Dividend Aristocrats: Which Stocks Make the List?

By Dan CaplingerMarketsFool.com

Income investors love stocks that pay healthy dividends, and one of the biggest achievements a dividend stock can reach is to become a Dividend Aristocrat. The S&P Dividend Aristocrats include those stocks that meet the requirements that S&P Dow Jones Indices imposes.

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To qualify, a stock must have raised its annual dividend payment for at least 25 consecutive years, and it must be a member of the S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC). Below, you'll see a complete list of current S&P Dividend Aristocrats, along with their current dividend yields.

S&P Dividend Aristocrats in 2017

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Data source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, Investor Relations websites, Yahoo! Finance. * Abbott Labs spun off AbbVie; AbbVie's inclusion assumes carry-forward of Abbott's dividend streak, while Abbott's continuing inclusion accounts for spinoff.

What to notice about the S&P Dividend Aristocrats

There are a few things that investors need to keep in mind about the list of S&P Dividend Aristocrats. First of all, there's a little bit of controversy about whether every stock on this list should be included. For instance, both Abbott Labs and AbbVie appear on the list, because the methodology for the index assumes that the spun-off AbbVie should inherit the original dividend streak of former parent Abbott Labs. But one could just as easily disqualify either, or both, on the basis of the spinoff.

Image source: Getty Images.

On the flip side, some stocks that arguably could appear on the list don't. Altria Group (NYSE: MO) is a good example, with 50 dividend increases over the past 47 years. The problem, though, is that Altria did spinoffs of various business units, including its Kraft food unit and its international tobacco business, Philip Morris International. Because of those moves, Altria doesn't appear on the list despite it being one of the most important dividend stocks of the past half-century.

Finally, notice that, just because a stock is a Dividend Aristocrat, it doesn't mean that it has a particularly high yield. Several stocks on the list have yields of 1.5% or less, which is considerably below the market average.

Moreover, there's no minimum amount by which a company must raise the dividend in order to qualify as an increase. That leads some companies to do token increases to extend a streak, and while small boosts are better than nothing, it's unclear whether such moves are really consistent with the spirit of S&P Dividend Aristocrat membership.

Look closely at great dividend stocks

Even with these caveats, the stocks that are part of the S&P Dividend Aristocrats have proven themselves to be able to boost their dividend payouts in strong economies and in recessionary conditions. With that kind of resilience, Dividend Aristocrats deserve the reputation they have, and also are worth a closer look from dividend investors, generally.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Ecolab, Johnson & Johnson, and PepsiCo. The Motley Fool owns shares of ExxonMobil and Medtronic. The Motley Fool recommends Aflac, Automatic Data Processing, Becton Dickinson, Chevron, Cintas, Emerson Electric, Illinois Tool Works, Kimberly-Clark, Lowe's, McCormick, Nucor, and Sherwin-Williams. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.