Low payout ratio sets stage for dividend boosts in 2014

|By:, SA News Editor

Q4 net dividend increases of $12.7B compared to $8.4B in 2012 Q4, according to S&P. The number of increases (885), however, pales in comparison to the 1,266 "tax-incentivized" hikes from a year ago (there were 649 in 2011).

Of roughly 10K traded stocks, 51 companies cut payouts in Q4 compared to 154 in the year-earlier quarter.

Room for more hikes? S&P's Howard Silverblatt notes payout rates - which historically average 52% - continue to remain near their low of 36%. "At this point, we expect Q1 to be a very busy positive period for dividends, with 2014 setting another record for payments."

The weighted dividend yield off 2.44% compares to 2.6% in Q3 and 2.8% in Q4 of 2012 as boosted payouts aren't quite keeping pace with the strong advance in equity prices.

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