It's always a healthy sign when a company raises its annual payout to investors. All the more so when it has a long history of doing so. Here are a few companies that recently upped their yearly dividends.

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PennantPark Investment Corp. (Nasdaq:PNNT) just raised its quarterly dividend to 25 cents per share, a rise of 4.2% that brings the yearly yield to a very sumptuous 11.75%. The stock is up this year by 240% and trades with a P/E of just 5. PennantPark is a closed-end investment fund with a stable of investments that runs the gamut, from retail to aerospace. The company focuses on providing debt and taking equity positions in middle-market private companies. PNNT stock trades at just 72% of the firm's breakup value.

Reliable Utilities Raise Payouts
The Laclede Group (NYSE:LG) is a supplier of natural gas to customers in the Metro St. Louis area. Late last week, the company raised its dividend to 39.5 cents per share, offering investors a 4.95% annual yield.

LG stock trades with a P/E of 10.9 and a price to book ratio of 1.35. Price to sales on the shares is just 0.37.

NSTAR (NYSE:NST) is another company in the energy delivery business, serving clients in Massachusetts. The company now pays a 4.8% annual dividend after raising its quarterly payout by 6.7% to 40 cents a share.

2 Long-Term Dividend Raisers
Lancaster Colony Corp. (Nasdaq:LANC) has an uninterrupted 47-year history of increasing its annual dividend. Most recently, the company upped its quarterly payout by 5.3% to 30 cents per share. The yield on the stock is currently 2.45% and the price/earnings ratio is 12.8.

Lancaster Colony derives the bulk of its income from the retail food and food service industries, to which it supplies numerous specialty products.

Automatic Data Processing (Nasdaq:ADP) is one of the world's largest providers of outsourcing solutions, including payroll and other human resources and administrative operations. ADP recently raised their quarterly payout 3% to 34 cents, resulting in a current dividend yield of 3.1%.

The Bottom Line
Companies that raise their dividends in times like these should be looked upon with a good measure of credibility. Those that have done so through thick and thin for three or four decades - that honor shareholders with such regularity - should be treated with an extra measure of respect. (To learn more, read Dividend Facts You May Not Know.)

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