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Dividend ‘Aristocrats’ No Joke as Payoffs Increase

The S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index, which according to Standard & Poor’s highlights the “true blue-chip companies” with a “policy of increasing dividends,” have been the market’s dirty punch line the last three years, getting neglected in the comeback rally as traders chased high-beta performers and taking a hit during the credit crisis as many financials were forced to cut Payoffs.

This may no longer be the case going forward.

The SPDR S&P Dividend ETF, which tracks the Aristocrats index, is up more than five percent in the last month, compared to a 3 percent gain for the whole S&P 500. It extended that lead last week after General Electric hiked its payout by 20 percent.

GE’s “dividend hike suggest that management believes that the improvement in earnings is real and sustainable,” wrote Ed Yardeni, President & Chief Investment Strategist of Yardeni Research. “My hunch is that the blue chips might outperform the broader market over the rest of the year.”

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ANSWER OUR POLL OF THE DAY

Companies in the S&P 500 currently have the most cash relative to assets on record. That will lead to more Payoffs, more buybacks and more merger activity, investors said.

AT&T shares jumped today after Deutsche Bank upgraded the stock, saying they “expect the company to boost its dividend by 2.5 percent in late 2011 for the 27th consecutive year.” The analyst, Brett Feldman, also wrote that AT&T can afford an $8 bln buyback.

“Uncertainty remains at very high levels for the investing community and high dividend paying stocks allow investors to stay in the market vs. going to cash and missing that next big rally while feeling `protected’ if the market sells off,” said Stuart Frankel’s Steve Grasso, who sees the orders from some of the very biggest investors on Wall Street down at the New York Stock Exchange. Grasso is also a ‘Fast Money’ trader.

To be sure, this investment class could turn back into a cruel joke if Congress lets the Bush tax cuts on dividends expire at the end of this year. That is not necessarily a done deal as some Democratic dissenters have started to say we should leave these investing ‘aristocrats’ alone.

For the best market insight, catch 'Fast Money' each night at 5pm ET, and the ‘Halftime Report’ each afternoon at 12:30 ET on CNBC.

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Trader disclosure: On July 26, 2010, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC’s Fast Money were owned by the Fast Money traders; Adami owns (AGU), (BTU), (NUE), (C), (GS), (INTC), (MSFT); Adami’s wife works at Merck; Finerman owns (AAPL); Finerman's firm owns (BP) calls; Finerman's firm owns (PM); Finerman's firm owns (JPM); Finerman owns (JPM); Finerman's firm owns (BAC); Finerman owns (BAC); Finerman's firm is short (IJR); Finerman's firm is short (MDY); Finerman's firm is short (IWM); Finerman's firm is short (SPY); Grasso owns (ASTM), (ABK), (BAC), (BA), (BGP), (C), (CSCO), (DYN), (JPM), (LPX), (MO), (NDAQ), (PFE), (PRST); Kelly owns (BP) puts; Kelly is short (GS); Terranova owns (AMZN), (EMC), (CREE), (CRCM), (LRCX), (COP), (AXP), (BMO), (CSX), (PEP), (CVS), (GS), (PCP), (C), (GLD), (APA), (FCX), (JOYG), (MMM), (MOS), (GLD), (UAUA), (WYNN), (GOOG), (BBY), (SU), (KOL)

For Steve Grasso
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (BAX)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (COG)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (CUBA)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (DHR)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (DYN)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (GERN)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (HSPO)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (IP)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (MERC)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (NWS.A)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (NYX)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (PDE)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (PFE)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (PRST)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (RDC)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (SYMC)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (TBT)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (TLM)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (TRV)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (XRX)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners own (SDS)
Stuart Frankel & Co and it’s partners are short (QQQQ)

For Brian Kelly
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital own (ELX)
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital own (QLGC)
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital own (BIG)
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital own (GME)
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital own (TLT)
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital own (NWL)
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital are short (GLD)
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital are short (EWO)
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital are short (EWI)
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital are short the Euro
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital are short the UK Pound
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital are short (JOE)
Accounts managed by Kanundrum Capital are short (IWM)

For Joe Terranova
Terranova works for (VRTS)
Terranova is chief market strategist of Virtus Investment Partners, LTD.
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (CASS)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (LDR)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (LPHI)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (MGRC)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (XLB)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (XLP)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (XLY)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (XLI)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (XLK)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (XLU)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (SUBK)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (WDFC)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (YDNT)
Virtus Investment Partners owns more than 1% of (DRYS)

For Dennis Gartman
Funds Managed by Dennis Gartman Own (FCX), (PCU), (XLB), (IYT)

For Mike Khouw
Cantor Fitzgerald makes a market in (MEE)

For Niamh Alexander
KBW expects to receive or intends to seek compensation for investment banking services from Nasdaq OMX Group in the next three months.
KBW currently makes a market and/or acts as a liquidity provider in Nasdaq OMX Groupsecurities.
KBW expects to receive or intends to seek compensation for investment banking services from CME Group, Inc. in the next three months.
KBW currently makes a market and/or acts as a liquidity provider in CME Group, Inc.securities.
KBW has received compensation for investment banking services from CBOE Holdings, Inc in the past 12 months.
KBW has managed or co-managed a public offering of securities for CBOE Holdings, Inc in the past twelve (12) months.
KBW currently makes a market and/or acts as a liquidity provider in CBOE Holdings, Inc securities.
CBOE Holdings, Inc currently is, or was during the 12-month period preceding the date of distribution of this report, a client of KBW.
KBW expects to receive or intends to seek compensation for investment banking services from Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. in the next three months.
KBW currently makes a market and/or acts as a liquidity provider in Intercontinental Exchange, Inc.securities.
KBW expects to receive or intends to seek compensation for investment banking services from NYSE Euronext in the next three months.
KBW currently makes a market and/or acts as a liquidity provider in NYSE Euronextsecurities.
Keefe, Bruyette & Woods is a member of the New York Stock Exchange.

For Mark Gilman
***No Disclosures***

For Gary Shilling
***No Disclosures***