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Apple Inc. (AAPL), American Capital Agency Corp. (AGNC): 10 Incredible Dividend Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

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Dividend-paying stocks are everywhere today, but if we’ve learned anything as investors, it’s that no two dividend stocks are ever alike.

Conjured up by businesses early on in the stock market’s existence, dividends were a way to reward shareholders for sticking with a company by sharing profits with them on a quarterly, semiannual, or annual basis. Whether you realize it or not, dividend income has been a steady source of investment growth for generations of investors.

Today, I’d like to share you with you 10 dividend facts that I’ve come across through my own personal research that demonstrate the power, growth potential, and also dangers associated with investing in dividend-paying stocks.

Source: Andrew Magill, Flickr.

1. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), which holds the record for the highest market valuation in history, only began paying a dividend in August of last year after a 17-year dividend hiatus, but it is expected to pay out $11.08 billion in dividends over the next four quarters — assuming it keeps its dividend steady. To put that all-time record annual payout into another perspective, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s annual payout is higher than the current market cap of 176 of the S&P’s 500 components. In one year, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will give out more cash to shareholders than Best Buy, Southwest Airlines, or Alcoa is currently worth!

2. There are few things that income-seeking investors like more than buying into companies that have paid a dividend for decades or longer. The reason is that a steady history of payouts often establishes to investors the health of a business model. Only a handful of currently traded companies have paid out dividends for longer than 100 years,and I can find no company that has paid dividends in a concurrent manner for longer than the Bank of Montreal (USA) (NYSE:BMO), which has been divvying out dividend payments since 1829!

3. Sticking with the theme of longevity, dividend investors also love a company that has a history of boosting its dividend. Only a handful of companies are elite enough to join what’s referred to as the Dividend Aristocrats club — those companies that have raised their dividend for 25 or more consecutive years. No company, though, is more elite than ATM and security systems manufacturer Diebold Incorporated (NYSE:DBD), which earlier this year increased its dividend for a record 60th consecutive year.

4. With interest rates at arguably the lowest levels on record, the thirst for high-yield investments has boiled over since the recession into the mortgage-REIT sector, which has thrived on low lending rates. Over the past four years, agency-only mREIT American Capital Agency Corp. (NASDAQ:AGNC) frequently yielded close to 20%. But what I find truly incredible is that if you add up American Capital Agency Corp. (NASDAQ:AGNC)’s dividend distributions over the past 20 quarters (five years), it comes out to $25.85 per share. With the stock valued at only $22.51 per share as of yesterday’s close, shareholders have been given a 115% dividend payback just since the summer of 2008.

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