The following chart shows the recent past and the expected future for the S&P 500's dividends per share, spanning 2015-Q1 through 2017-Q1.
Typically, the greatest mismatch between the expected future for the S&P 500's dividends per share and the actual dividends per share recorded by Standard & Poor's occurs in the first and fourth quarter of each year.
While these quarters are the ones in which firms are the most likely to announce changes to their dividend policies, the disparity between the available futures for a given quarter and its actual reading is also affected by the mismatch in the terms of calendar quarters, which S&P follows, and the terms of dividend futures contracts, which end on the third Friday of the month ending a given calendar quarter.
And in the case of IndexArb's dividend futures data, that's complicated by the data's "countdown" reporting format, where each future quarter's data represents the expected total amount of dividends that will be paid out by the end of the dividend futures contract associated with it.
Here, the value of a given quarter's expected dividends per share must be determined by the difference between the dividends for that quarter and the quarter immediately preceding it, which isn't possible to calculate for the current quarter. As a result, the last reading we are able to find using this data source represents the future that was predicted some 14 to 15 weeks before the end of a given quarter.
For more information, as well as links to sources for all data, see our previous posts on the topic.