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Tickers in this Article: HNZ, AXA, GPC, AVP, PBI, KFT, CPB
Dividends are the apple of the income-oriented investor's eye. It's always nice to receive a fat dividend check, but beyond that, the existence of a dividend often sends a strong signal, be it right or wrong, that the company paying it is in relatively good health.

There is a downside to dividends, however, and that is that companies can, and often do, cut and/or suspend them during trying times. (Learn more in Is Your Dividend at Risk?)

Let's take a look at some companies that sport a forward dividend yield equal to or in excess of 5%. With the market still in turmoil, I feel that these companies are worth further research.

Company Market Capitalization Forward Annual Dividend Yield
Avon Products (NYSE:AVP) $7.2 billion 5.2%
AXA (NYSE:AXA) $21 billion 5.2%
Genuine Parts (NYSE:GPC) $4.3 billion 6%
H.J. Heinz (NYSE:HNZ) $10.2 billion 5.3%
Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI) $4.2 billion 7.4%
As of March 13, 2009

Food for Thought
There is still the perception that because we all have to eat, shares of food companies will do well even when the market is plummeting. Clearly that is not always the case. Take a gander at shares of H.J. Heinz, the company known worldwide for its popular ketchup, and you'll notice that the stock is off about 29% over the last 52 weeks. This is not as bad as the S&P 500, but is still down sharply.

But despite the recent fall, I think the shares are attractive at current levels. In fact, there are several other reasons why Heinz is looking to be an appetizing option.

Tasty Results
To start, Heinz reported some tasty results in its most recent (third) quarter. In February, Reuters reported that "excluding mark-to-market gains resulting from translation hedges on key currencies and from a total rate of return swap, Heinz earned 69 cents a share, beating the analysts' average forecast of 65 cents." Given all of the earnings disappointments in the marketplace, exceeding expectations is a huge bonus.

On top of that, the company indicated that it was looking for earnings of $2.87 to $2.91 per share in fiscal '09. These earnings are intriguing because it means that the company trades at right around 11.5 times that guidance. Heinz becomes even more attractive given that in the next five years, the company is expected to grow at more than 7% per annum.

Of course, I don't want to forget the dividend. The company paid a dividend of 41.5 cents per share in January 2009, and the forward annual dividend yield is in excess of 5%.

Other Food Plays
Heinz isn't the only company in the food industry that I have my eye on. Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB) also stands out as it trades at about 12.4 times the current year estimate of $2.13. Also, the company's forward yield is in excess of 3%. Another company I'm keeping my eye on is Kraft (NYSE:KFT), which is trading at about 11.9 times the current year estimate of $1.89, and its forward dividend yield is north of 5%.

Bottom Line
Dividends can be a boon to the income-seeking investor. Keep in mind, however, that they are not guaranteed and in a slowing economy companies could very easily cut or suspend the dividends they pay. (For further reading, check out Build A Dividend Portfolio That Grows With You.)

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