Market Wrap-Up for Jan.10 (DUK, PGN, DD, SLE, STRA, more)

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According to Standard & Poor's (S&P), U.S. companies added $26.5 billion to dividend payments in 2010, with $8 billion of that increased amount coming in the fourth quarter.

1,729 companies increased dividend payouts, compared to 1,191 companies recording increases in 2009. Only 145 companies decreased dividend payments in 2010, versus the 804 that did so in 2009. Now that the markets are no longer worried about the expiration of the Bush-Era tax cuts, we can get back to the show at hand. Rising dividends and increased deal-making will likely keep a decent foundation under the price of stocks as we head further out into 2011. Remember, a sideways market isn't a bad thing when it comes to dividend-paying stocks, since you get paid just for owning them!

Everyone that reads our stuff knows that we think dividend-stock investing is a must for building long-term wealth, as well as creating new income streams. Personal Finance legend Suze Orman has a new book coming out this March titled "Money Class", and she has been talking about dividend investing as part of her game plan as we head into 2011. She continues to see a bit of a shift away from bonds, and into quality dividend-paying stocks and dividend ETFs.

I hope everyone had a great weekend (it was great for us Jets fans and some of the others who's teams pulled out wins as well as the NFL playoffs kicked off). Sports aside, I hope everyone has given thought to what I wrote last week about sitting down with family members and bring everyone into the fold when it comes to learning about family money matters. There are many areas on our "Learn to Be Rich" section that you can get started with. Take some of the passion you may have for sports or other hobbies you have and try and translate that into teaching ones around you how to build long-term wealth. The key is making smart money decisions as they come up in your daily life.

Looking at today's market, we see selling early on as the risk of a European debt crisis grips early investor sentiment. Global markets have pulled back to start the week, pulling the U.S. indices down this morning with them. We woke up to news of a big merger in the utility space as Duke Energy ( DUK ) announced a deal to combine with Progress Energy ( PGN ). Recent speculation of a deal had moved shares of both companies higher recently, with both stocks actually ticking a touch lower today. Both names are on our "Recommended" List , which means PGN will likely be going away when the deal closes. DuPont ( DD ) was following news of the company's $5.8 billion acquisition of Danish enzyme and good ingredients maker Danisco for a total of $6.3 billion. On the flipside, shares of Sara Lee ( SLE ) are ticking higher on news the company could receive a higher bid from a previously interested suitor.

Online education play Strayer Education ( STRA ) got clobbered (down 23% by the close) as the company guided student enrollment numbers lower. Student debt continues to be a problem, but as I said last week, the importance of the college degree is becoming even more pronounced in this tough job environment. Unless you can be a networking superstar, many better-paying jobs today will require a bachelor's degree as a prerequisite to even get a crack at an interview. My comment is not to defend Strayer's stock, but instead to pass along what I hear from peers around me. Parents already know how hard it is to make it today, and sacrifice is certainly something many are already making. We have several great articles in our "Learn to Be Rich" section on ways you can try and get help to pay for college tuitions, along with strategies to cut your college costs and still get the degree you are striving for.

I know that I talk about several financial issues to keep in mind, but it's good to make a checklist of what the goals are for yourself and your family. Investing and saving for retirement, building a nest egg, saving to pay for a wedding, home, college, etc., are some examples. Every month you should be chipping away at these goals by putting money to work. Sitting in cash or a money market or CD that pays you little to nothing will only make your reaching any of your goals that much harder.

I hope everyone had a chance to check out our Dividend.com Premium members-only weekend articles, including the recently-added new features which will be highlighting some of the biggest winners and losers from the week that was, in regards to analyst upgrades, downgrades, dividend ETFs, as well as earnings/story stocks. We'll keep everyone posted as to any changes we are making when it comes to our recommended list, so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading and I'll see to you tomorrow!

Be sure to visit our complete recommended list of the Best Dividend Stocks , as well as a detailed explanation of our ratings system here .



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

Created by Dividend.com


This article appears in: Investing , Stocks

Referenced Stocks: DD , DUK , PGN , SLE , STRA

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