Aggregate dividend increases for the first quarter of 2018 totaled $19.9 billion, $8 billion more than in the first quarter of 2017. The net increase (increases minus decreases) totaled $18.8 billion, up $7.9 billion year over year.
Over the past 12 months, aggregate dividend increases totaled $57.5 billion and the net increase totaled $45.1 billion. In the corresponding period for 2017, the aggregate increase was $43.4 billion and the net increase was $33 billion.
The data were reported Tuesday morning by Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, who noted: “A rise in both the average and median dividend rate increase for Q1 2018 allowed net indicated dividends to reach a level of momentum not seen since Q1 2012.”
Q1 2018 dividend payments for the S&P 500® set a record at $12.79 per share, slightly above the prior record of $12.78 from Q4 2017. On an aggregate basis, investors received $109.2 billion this quarter, up from $100.9 billion during Q1 2017.
Using the current declared dividend rates for the S&P 500, 2018 has a 5.5% increase of dividend payments over 2017, up from 2.3% at year-end 2017, with three quarters of the year yet to go.
At this point, given the record cash levels, repatriation and expected record earnings helped by lower tax rates, 2018 could post its seventh consecutive year of record payments. There is potential for a return to double-digit gains, last seen during 2015.
And the music doesn’t stop with dividends. In the month of February alone, U.S. corporations repurchased a one-month record total of $153.7 billion in their own outstanding shares. JPMorgan analysts have estimated that buybacks will total more than $800 billion in 2018.
Even with the turmoil in the equities market since the middle of last month, these estimates of returns offer investors billions of reasons to sit tight.