The year just ended, while in some ways one of the best ever from a dividend standpoint, was less than average in terms of dividends paid, according to Standard & Poor's Corp., New York.
The amount of dividends paid on the S&P 500 stock index for 1995 reached 13.79, up 4.6% from the previous years. But dividend growth has averaged more than 6% annually over the last 67 years.
With stock prices up 34% last year, the dividend yield has fallen to 2.3%, the lowest in modern history. (The total return, including dividends reinvested, on the S&P 500 for 1995 was 37.58%.)
The payout ratio - the portion of corporate profits paid out in dividends - shrank in 1995 to one of its lowest levels on record, approximating the all-time low of 38% in 1979, although final earnings figures won't be available for some weeks.
In all, the number of companies reporting dividend increases totaled 1,907 in 1995, up 4% from the 1,826 boosts in 1994 and the most since the 2,160 hikes in 1981.
Noting more bright news, an S&P spokesman said, "Unfavorable dividend actions were extraordinarily rare" last year. Only 49 companies decreased their dividends and 79 omitted them last year.
The combined total of 128 unfavorable actions was the lowest since S&P began keeping records in 1956.