A strengthening world economy and rising corporate confidence pushed global dividends to a new high in 2017, according to the Janus Henderson Global Dividend Index.
Janus Henderson recently released its February 2018 edition of the Janus Henderson Global Dividend Index. Each year Janus analyzes dividends paid by the 1,200 largest firms by market capitalization (as of Dec. 31 before the start of each year).
Global dividends rose 7.7% on a headline basis — the fastest rate of growth since 2014 — and reached a total of more than $1.2 trillion.
Records were broken in 11 of the index’s 41 countries, including the United States, Japan, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Netherlands. Every region saw an increase, according to the report.
“With all three of the largest economies in the world, the U.S., EU and China, expanding at the same time, companies are seeing rising profits, and healthy cash flows, enabling them to fund generous dividends,” the report states.
Looking specifically at North America, dividends finished 2017 6.9% higher on a headline basis at a record $475.6 billion, equivalent to an underlying growth rate of 6.5%.
The report notes that North American dividends make up more than two-fifths of the global annual total and have more than doubled since 2009.
The U.S. has been the key driver of global dividend growth in recent years. After a sluggish 2016, growth in the U.S. “picked up markedly in 2017, reaching 6.3% at the underlying level,” according to the report.
According to the report, U.S. companies paid their shareholders a record $438.1 billion, which is $24.4 billion more than the year before and a headline increase of 5.9%.
“To put that in context, the U.S. increase alone is larger than the entire Spanish total for 2017,” the report states. “The U.S. has the most diverse stock exchange among developed nations, with no sector accounting for more than $1 in every $11 paid in the U.S. That means investors are less reliant on the fortunes of individual sectors for growth.”
Looking ahead, Janus expects dividend growth to continue in 2018 at a similar pace.
“We forecast underlying growth of 6.1%, and once again expect expansion from every region of the world,” the report states.
If the U.S. dollar maintains its current level against other major currencies, the exchange-rate gains that emerged in the third and fourth quarters will likely continue, according to Janus.
That will help push headline growth to 7.7%, yielding a new record total of more than $1.3 trillion.
According to the report, tax cuts in the U.S. may also have an impact.
“Tax cuts in the U.S. do not just mean healthier domestic profits,” the report states. “They might also make it possible for companies to repatriate trillions of dollars earned abroad and taxed there at lower rates.”
Janus Henderson notes that it’s still unclear what companies will do with that cash.
“If it’s used for productive investment, it should boost future profits, and so eventually feed into future dividends, but some of it might find its way more directly to shareholders by way of more share buybacks and larger immediate payouts,” the report states.