Dividend stocks have gotten incredibly popular among investors as the search for income has led many to take on more risk in their portfolios in order to generate the cash flow they need from their investments. With the S&P 500 once again at new highs, another draw of dividend stocks is that historically, they’ve tended to perform better than the overall market during pullbacks, making more conservative investors feel more comfortable with dividend payers.
But some companies are more generous with dividends than others. Let’s take a look at the 15 blue-chip companies that have paid more than $5 billion in dividends to their shareholders over the past 12 months, according to the latest figures from S&P Capital IQ.
|Rank||Company Name||Amount Paid in Dividends|
|1||Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM)||$10.43 billion|
|2||AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T)||$10.14 billion|
|3||Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)||$7.47 billion*|
|4||General Electric Company (NYSE:GE)||$7.37 billion|
|5||Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)||$7.21 billion|
|6||Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX)||$6.99 billion|
|7||Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)||$6.76 billion|
|8||Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE)||$6.62 billion|
|9||The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG)||$6.42 billion|
|10||Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC)||$5.60 billion|
|11||Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT)||$5.56 billion|
|12||Philip Morris International||$5.48 billion|
|13||JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM)||$5.41 billion|
|14||Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ)||$5.41 billion|
|15||Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK)||$5.14 billion|
As you can see from the table, energy and telecom stocks continue to dominate the list, with the extensive cash flow that those businesses generate outweighing any concerns about future growth in their respective industries. Perhaps the most impressive thing about companies like Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is that in addition to those dividends, they also maintain massive multibillion-dollar share buybacks as well.
Increasingly, though, we’ve seen technology stocks start to become dividend payers. Historically, most tech giants have grown fast enough to justify plowing spare cash into internal growth initiatives. But more recently, mature tech companies have had more money than they know what to do with. For instance, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) started paying a dividend last August, caving to pressure from activist investors arguing that the company’s nine-figure cash hoard was a waste of shareholder capital. When S&P Capital IQ includes Apple’s latest augmented dividend payment, it should vault the company into the No. 2 spot. Meanwhile, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has paid dividends longer than Apple, but it too has lifted its payout substantially in recent years to reflect the substantial income that its stalwart Office and Windows software packages produce.