Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), QUALCOMM, Inc. (QCOM): Find Great Dividend Stocks in an Unexpected Place

Most investors know to look for dividend payouts in familiar sectors, such as utilities or consumer staples. Dividend stocks are usually regarded as widow-and-orphan types, with big dividend yields but slow, unexciting growth from boring industries. However, over the past few years, there’s been a noticeable shift among a sector of the market that was for years known as anything but a reliable source of dividends.

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)

After years of offering their investors little to nothing in terms of yield, technology companies are sitting on tons of cash and have begun returning it to shareholders via dividends. If you favor dividends and would like to diversify into the technology sector, you don’t need to be left out in the cold. There are some extremely well-known large-cap technology companies that are still growing and offering solid dividends along the way.

One high-yielding tech giant

Most investors know Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) for its stagnating share price over the past decade. Indeed, in 2000, the stock reached almost $60 per share. After the tech bubble burst, the stock fell to less than $30, and has traded at that level ever since. However, underneath the surface, Microsoft has been one of the market’s premier dividend growth plays. Over the past five years, the company has more than doubled its dividend. Microsoft now yields 3.25%, approximately 130 basis points higher than the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury Bond.

In a difficult year, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) reported 2012 adjusted diluted earnings per share growth of 2%, along with 5.4% revenue growth year-over-year. Making the case even better for Microsoft is that it’s hard to argue against its valuation. Microsoft now trades for just 10 times its 2012 adjusted diluted earnings per share. Microsoft also has more than $63 billion in cash, equivalents, and short-term investments on the balance sheet. It’s fairly difficult to think of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) as anything other than a cheap, cash-generating machine with an extremely comfortable yield.

One lower-yielding tech giant with higher dividend growth

Technology companies that focus on the trend toward mobile telecommunications solutions, such as semiconductor company QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM), are the favorite of many growth-oriented dividend investors these days. The company’s fantastic operating performance has backed up this theory. In its 2012 annual report, the company announced revenues and diluted earnings per share increased by 27% and 39%, respectively.

Qualcomm is a $112 billion technology behemoth that has seen its share price rise almost 20% since the beginning of 2012. Recently, the company announced a huge 40% increase in its dividend. Over the past five years, Qualcomm has raised its dividend by 17%, compounded annually. At current prices, the stock yields slightly more than 2%. Although QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) yields less than Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), its dividend growth outpaces its larger technology peer.