The first quarter of 1996 saw more dividend boosts than any first quarter since Standard & Poor's Corp. began keeping tabs in 1956.
The number of companies reporting dividend increases jumped 8% to 590 from 544 in the year-earlier period.
Dividends on S&P 500 stocks for the entire year are likely to exceed the 1995 level by about 6%, which would be the largest gain since 1990, the firm reported.
Also, fewer unfavorable actions were recorded in the first quarter than in any first quarter since 1956.
Only 11 companies cut payments, and 12 eliminated them. That combined total of 23 actions is below the previous record low of 31 in the first quarter of 1973.
For March alone, dividend hikes totaled 165, 19% more than the 139 in March 1995. Unfavorable actions dropped to 10 in March 1996 from 16.