The group is off to a strong start. Funds that track divided payers have enjoyed an especially strong February, with many outperforming the S&P 500. An asset class often looked on with disdain by those seeking riskier and supposedly higher returns is showing resilience, and winning some converts.
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"Over the past 12 months, dividend yield as a style has outperformed in all markets apart from Japan," Credit Suisse analysts led by Andrew Garthwaite said in a report for clients this week. "In the euro area, U.K. and U.S., dividend indices outperformed their wider markets by 3.8 percent, 5.6 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively."
The analysis was more Europe-centric, asserting a new monetary easing policy from the European Central Bank would keep bond yields low and thus make dividend payers more attractive as investors become more willing to pay a premium for companies that provide income to shareholders even though stock prices may be sluggish.
In all, the Credit Suisse note set forth six reasons to own dividends: Low yields; regulatory easing; reasonable valuation for dividend stocks; strong inflows to high-dividend funds; solid earnings trends for the group; and the likelihood that European companies in particular are due to start allocating more to dividends than their U.S. counterparts.
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As the chart below shows, investors who have stuck with the dividend theme have been rewarded with outperformance against the S&P 500.