While investors question the impact of rising rates and fate of this market cycle, dividends tell quite a different story — one of stable earnings, synchronous global growth and improving corporate confidence, according to Janus Henderson’s Global Dividend Study.

“2018 has started well for dividends,” Ben Lofthouse, head of Global Equity Income at Janus Henderson, said in a statement. “Economic growth is strong, and corporate profitability is rising, generating cash that companies can return to their shareholders.”

The study finds that, after a strong showing in 2017, worldwide dividends continued to gain ground in early 2018. On a headline basis, payouts increased 10.2% to nearly $245 billion for the first quarter, a record improvement since the Janus Henderson Global Dividend Index was launched in 2009.

According to Lofthouse, the results are not entirely surprising.

“When earnings rise, as they have across a broad swath of sectors in most regions in the world, dividends follow,” he writes in the study’s report.

Another reason for the bolstered results is the fact that the index is based on U.S. dollars, according to Lofthouse. A weakening greenback accounted for about three percentage points of headline growth.

The study finds that nearly every region in the world hit a high-water mark for the first quarter. The only exception — Asia Pacific ex Japan — saw a decline in dividends because of stock-specific issues in Australia and lower special dividends in Hong Kong, not because of deteriorating fundamentals overall.

Meanwhile, North American dividends were up 6.1% during the quarter. The $123 billion paid out over the quarter represents the region’s highest tally for the history of the index.

While Canada represents just $10 billion of this figure this quarter, the country carried more than its weight last quarter, with payouts surging more than 16.6%, or about twice the growth in the U.S.

“The Q1 acceleration in U.S. dividend growth may be an early sign that companies are feeling confident about returning some of the cash they have accumulated to shareholders … we’re confident investors will get to celebrate a new record for global dividends in 2018,” Lofthouse said in a statement.

According to the study, 2018 is set to see global dividend growth of 6% in underlying terms.

The study is based on the Janus Henderson Global Dividend Index (JHGDI), which measures the progress global firms are making in paying their investors an income on their capital, and tracks dividends paid by the 1,200 largest firms by market capitalization. Results are broken down by regions, industries and sectors, with a goal of helping readers better understand the world of income investing.

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