As Congress and the White House head toward another battle over extending the Bush-era tax cuts, a trade association representing utility companies is warning that investors could be in for a major hit if the rates for qualified dividends revert to their pre-2003 levels, even if the only rates that move are those for the wealthiest Americans.

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) on Thursday released a study analyzing the age, income level and investment goals of investors in dividend stocks, concluding that any rate increase could cause a major sell-off and drain value from the normally stable companies known for high yields rather than volatility.

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