Pepsi Board Approves Dividend Hike, $15 Billion Buyback

Hail, the return of the dividend! PepsiCo.'s (PEP) board approved a plan on Monday to raise its annual dividend to $1.92 per share from $1.80 per share, which represents a 7% increase. The company also said it will buy back roughly $15 billion in stock through June 2013.

For investors who favor dividend stocks, it's been a brutal couple of years, during which time many corporations pulled dividends altogether. But things are finally looking up: More than 40 companies from the S&P 500 raised dividends over the last couple months, and that includes consumer dependent businesses such as Wal-Mart (WMT) and Coca-Cola (KO).

The key takeaway is that the equity markets may be on the road to recovery. Of course, it probably won't happen overnight: As DailyFinance's Dan Burrows notes, it could take two to three years for dividends to return to the same levels as they were during the bull market.

Pepsi shares were up 22 cents to $65.32 in premarket trading.