In addition to dividend increases, companies are ramping up their stock buyback programs, which effectively make shares more valuable by reducing the number of shares on the market. Buybacks also put money into shareholder hands.

Year to date, 310 companies have announced buyback programs, compared to 253 over the same time last year. In 2008, before the financial markets froze, 700 companies announced buyback programs.

At least on the corporate side, there is reason to be optimistic.

For more stories about dividends, visit our dividend ETFs category.

  • iShares Dow Jones US Industrial (NYSEArca: IYJ): 2.5% CAT

  • SPDR S&P Dividend (NYSEArca: SDY)

  • WisdomTree Dividend ex-Financials (NYSEArca: DTN)

  • Vanguard Dividend Appreciation (NYSEArca: VIG)

Sumin Kim contributed to this article.