Dividends are going up, up, up. According to the latest report from Standard & Poor’s, the number of U.S. companies that boosted their dividends in the second quarter, which ended last week, rose to 444. That’s up from 335 raises in the second quarter of last year, among the 7,000 companies that report such information. Just 21 companies decreased their dividend payouts, down from 34 cuts last year.
The number of increases means that investors are receiving bigger dividend streams, of course, with average yield for dividend payers rising to 2.51 per cent at the end of the second quarter, up from 2.39 per cent at the end of the first quarter. “If dividends were a paycheque, dividend investors would have received an 11.1 per cent raise in the first half of 2011,” said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Indices, in a note.
He expects more dividend increases throughout the rest of the year, but the pace could be slightly lower than in the first half of the year.
The recent improvements are quite striking. Just two years ago, in the second quarter of 2009, dividends were being chopped at a furious pace by cash-strapped U.S. companies. Back then, there were 250 dividend decreases, outnumbering the 233 increases. Still, today’s levels still don’t quite measure up to the second quarter of 2007, before the onslaught of the financial crisis. Then, there were 542 dividend increases during the quarter, versus just 18 decreases.