Stock dividend payouts reached an all-time record in the third quarter and rose 19.5% from the same period last year, based on S&P data collected by Crossing Wall Street’s Eddy Elfenbein.
At a time when fixed income investments are producing historically low yields, this chart shows that stocks are producing more dividends than ever, even though the S&P 500 has yet to rise above its past two major market peaks:
Strong stock dividends draw a number of potential conclusions:
- It may be reflecting a slow market for acquisitions, which are a competing use of cash for many large corporations. Historically acquisitive CEO Larry Ellison at Oracle, for example, said he prefers raising dividends over time instead of buying companies right now.
- It may reflect a maturing market for tech stocks, the largest sector in the S&P 500. Many may be choosing to buy back stock or pay dividends instead of funding growth initiatives.
- It may also be reflecting some underlying strength for the S&P 500 rally. Sure, more companies could be raising dividends because they simply do not have a better use for the cash. Yet at least they have the confidence in the health of their businesses to do so.