One of the most persuasive tests of high quality is an uninterrupted record of dividend payments going back over many years. We think that a record of continuous dividend payments for the last 20 years or more is an important plus factor in the company's quality rating. Indeed the defensive investor might be justified in limiting his purchases to those meeting this test.
Certainly with all the major indices in the tank, dividend yields should be greater. This is true but keep in mind that just because a stock pays a dividend does not mean it is a good buy or good investment. However paying a dividend is just another tool and perhaps a very good tool in finding a suitable stock investment.
Where should one start, well their are many financial sites on the web that have this information. A couple of the easy places to start are Google Finance(GOOG) and Yahoo Finance (YHOO), both have excellent sites for quick and easy reference.
Also over at the DividendGrowthInvestor who covers the subject of dividend investing, offers a wealth of information.
Graham used the dividend as just one of several criteria for picking stocks. Why was this? To show that a company was sharing some of the earnings with the stock holders. So often company's will reinvest the earnings back into the business. In some cases this makes sense, but quite often not.
.....We have always heard that "Cash Is King"..... So give me that Dividend Payment Please.