Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P, said, "Ten percent will be difficult to hit. We're at a record level, but growth has trimmed down, partly due to energy and nervousness over the economy," he said, adding, "Outside of Google or Warren [Buffett] deciding to spend, who can get us there? If I had to bet, I think we will come up short of 10 percent," the S&P analyst said.
It's going to be close. In another study out today, Henderson Global Investors found that in the second quarter, underlying U.S. stock dividend growth, which excludes the impact of currency, was at 9.3 percent and reached a peak level in terms of overall payouts to investors.
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S&P looks at another measure—indicated dividend rate or, in other words, a company's current declared rate—and how that is trending. In July the indicated dividend rate was up 5.6 percent year-to-date. The easiest way to think about this difference is to think of a dividend as a paycheck. An investor received 9.6 percent more in their "raise" in Q2 2015 vs. Q2 2014. But the Q2 raise this year, as measured by the indicated dividend rate or "how much you made this week," is running at 5.6 percent.
Silverblatt said there are two reasons he isn't optimistic about keeping the record dividend run. First, many of the major annual dividend events occur in the first half of the year, from banks to Apple and Exxon Mobil. Second, the broader numbers suggest a slowing in dividend exuberance, with the number of stocks increasing dividends slowing down and many more decreases this year through the second quarter than last year.
There were 562 dividend increases reported during the second quarter of 2015, compared to 696 increases reported during the second quarter of 2014, a 19.3 percent decrease, according to S&P. More troubling, 85 companies decreased dividends in the second quarter, compared to 57 in the first quarter. That represented the highest level of dividend decreases since 2009. And that's an important annual marker.