Category Archives: stock market

Dividends by the Numbers in April 2023

Brown Grizzly Bear by anvesh baru via Unsplash -

Signs of distress continued to build in the U.S. stock market in April 2023. The number of firms increasing their dividends fell substantially during the month. Meanwhile, the number of firms reducing dividend payments to their shareholding owners also fell, though much of that seemingly positive development is attributable to things not getting much worse for one particular industry that's been absolutely slammed in recent months.

We'll get to that seemingly positive story when we get deeper into the month's unfavorable dividend actions. The bigger story in April 2023 is what happened with the number of firms announcing dividend increases.

To put this developing story into context, February 2023 set a new monthly record for this measure when 424 firms declared they would increase their dividend payouts. Two months later, the number of dividend paying companies in the U.S. stock market fell to 91.

That 78% drop represents the third-largest percentage decline of firms announcing dividend rises recorded over a two month period in U.S. stock market history. The second-largest event is the collapse in dividend increases that accompanied the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic recession, when the number of dividend rises announced plunged by 82% between February and April 2020. The only event worse than both these in percentage terms for dividend rises over two months was the 100% decline that took place between June and August 1932 as the U.S. stock market bottomed during the Great Depression.

Snapping back to the modern era, the following chart shows the number of firms either increasing their dividends each month (blue) or decreasing them (red).

Number of Public U.S. Firms Increasing or Decreasing Their Dividends Each Month, January 2004 through April 2023

To help flesh out the overall signal being sent by dividend-paying firms in the U.S. stock market, the following table presents their dividend metadata for April 2023. It shows both favorable and unfavorable dividend changes are notably down substantially, both in Month-over-Month (MoM) and Year-Over-Year (YoY) terms:

Dividend Changes in April 2023
   Apr-2023  Mar-2023    MoM  Apr-2022    YoY
Total Declarations 3,169 4,654 -1,485 ↓ 3,588 -419 ↓
Favorable 130 173 -43 ↓ 186 -56 ↓
- Increases 91 124 -33 ↓ 127 -36 ↓
- Special/Extra 39 44 -5 ↓ 53 -14 ↓
- Resumed 0 5 -5 ↓ 6 -6 ↓
Unfavorable 30 53 -23 ↓ 26 4 ↑
- Decreases 30 53 -23 ↓ 26 4 ↑
- Omitted/Passed 0 0 0 ↔ 0 0 ↔

Our monthly sampling of dividend changes captured 14 of the reported 30 unfavorable actions. In falling back from their elevated levels of recent months, the most notable change was the absence of variable and hybrid dividend payers in the oil and gas industry. That's because crude oil prices have largely stabilized in a range between $70 and $80 per barrel in 2023 following their ~35% plunge from June through December 2022. In April 2023, we counted six firms from this industrial sector.

That number was matched by firms whose businesses are sensitive to rising interest rates, including two banks, two financial services firms, and two office-REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts). The remaining two firms in our sampling include a mining firm and a utility company. Here's the list:

The two firms marked with an asterisk (*) in this listing, Via Renewables and Vornado Realty Trust, suspended (or omitted) their dividends during April 2023. That's notable mainly because we believe Standard and Poor is including these firms' actions in their monthly count of dividend decreases, which would account for why they recorded zero dividend omissions during the month. Decreases and omissions are both considered unfavorable changes for investors who own stock in dividend paying firms.


Standard and Poor. S&P Market Attributes Web File. [Excel Spreadsheet]. 2 May 2023.

Image credit: Photo by anvesh baru on Unsplash.

A Visual History of Unfavorable Dividend Changes

Real Napoleonic Financiering (Editorial Cartoon). National Tribune (Washington D.C.) Vol XXVII, No. 12, 1379, p. 1.

Unfavorable changes. Just saying that phrase doesn't sound good, because it means something has turned for the worse.

When it comes to stock market dividends, it is, unfortunately, a very well established phrase. We suspect it was first deployed for that purpose on 5 October 1927 by Bertie Forbes, the founder of the long-running business magazine that still bears his name, though his surviving family members no longer own a majority stake in the company he established. At the time, he was reporting on the Roaring 1920s stock market in his syndicated column, which he quantified by counting up the dividend changes being announced each month by the firms whose stocks he tracked. With the booming stock market of that era, he was mainly reporting on favorable changes.

But in this column, Forbes used the term "unfavorable" for the first time to describe the combined total of dividend reductions and omissions that had occurred, noting there had been 21 such announcements in September 1927, and 131 overall in the year to date. In another two years, Forbes would come to use that phrase much more often as the Great Depression got underway and the number of unfavorable dividend changes exploded. His terminology took hold among the financial analysts of the day and has survived to the present.

We've previously presented what dividend reductions, or reductions, looked like through the Great Depression. But that only tells less than half of the story of how bad things were during that time. To tell the whole story, we need to add omitted (or passed) dividend announcements to the monthly totals of dividend reductions.

That's what we're doing today. But not just for the Great Depression, where we have previously compiled monthly data from January 1929 through December 1936 originally provided by the Standard Statistics Company, one of the precursor firms for today's Standard and Poor. We also have S&P's data for unfavorable dividends that runs from January 1955 through February 2023. The following chart shows all the historical data for unfavorable dividend changes we've been able to obtain at this point in time.

U.S. Stock Market Unfavorable Dividend Actions by Month, January 1929 - February 2023

Aside from the missing data in the period from January 1937 through December 1954, the data we do have does an amazing job communicating the scale of how bad the United States' worst economic crises were.

If you go by the height of the number of unfavorable dividend changes, we find the Coronavirus Recession ranks second to the Great Depression. The sheer mass and duration of the Great Depression's dividend reductions and omissions clearly mark that event as far, far worse. If not for the Coronavirus Recession spike, the so-called "Great Recession" of 2008-2009 would rank second and, if we compare the areas under the numbers of unfavorable dividend changes each month, it does.

We also see some potentially useful thresholds. For the periods where we have data, having the number of unfavorable dividend changes reach a level of 50 or higher in a single month often coincides with official periods of recession or significant distress for U.S. businesses. Historically, unfavorable changes that reach higher than 100 per month point to periods characterized by severe levels of economic distress.

Standard and Poor reported 100 unfavorable dividend changes in February 2023.

About the Data

We previously did the legwork for compiling the Great Depression era's unfavorable dividend changes using contemporary newspaper reports published between January 1929 and January 1937 that featured the Standard Statistics Company's data. We thank Howard Silverblatt for providing Standard and Poor's archived data for unfavorable dividend changes from January 1955 through December 2003. Our source for unfavorable dividend data from January 2004 through the present is Standard and Poor's S&P Market Attributes Web File, which Howard and S&P's analytical team compile each month.

If you compare the Standard Statistics Company/Standard & Poor's data with that reported by B.C. Forbes in the 1920s and 1930s, the historic S&P data presents a more complete picture. It represents the dividend announcements of all publicly-traded firms in the U.S. stock market, while Forbes' data is based on a smaller subset of U.S. firms he regularly tracked.


Standard and Poor. S&P Market Attributes Web File. [Excel Spreadsheet]. 1 March 2023.

Image Credit: U.S. Library of Congress (Chronicling America). Real Napoleonic Financiering. National Tribune (Washington D.C.) Vol XXVII, No. 12, 1379, p. 1. [Online Database].

Dividends by the Numbers in January 2023

2023 got off to a rocky start for dividend paying stocks in the U.S. stock market. The number of firms announcing dividend reductions jumped back above the threshold indicating recessionary conditions are present in the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, the number of dividend increases announced during January 2023 presents a more mixed picture, up month over month, but down year over year.

These changes are visualized in the following chart.

Number of Public U.S. Firms Increasing or Decreasing Their Dividends Each Month, January 2004 through January 2023

With the new year, we're revamping how we present the U.S. stock market's monthly dividend metadata. The following table presents the data for the just completed month of January 2023, the preceding month of December 2022, and the year ago month of January 2022. We've also presented the Month-over-Month (MoM) and Year-over-Year (YoY) changes for January 2023's dividend metadata:

Dividend Changes in January 2023
  Latest Previous Month Previous Year
   Jan-2023  Dec-2022  MoM  Jan-2022  YoY
Total Declarations 3,127 5,528 2,401 ↓ 2,224 903 ↑
Favorable 221 281 60 ↓ 264 43 ↓
- Increases 168 144 24 ↑ 198 30 ↓
- Special/Extra 48 135 87 ↓ 59 11 ↓
- Resumed 5 2 3 ↑ 7 2 ↓
Unfavorable 65 31 34 ↑ 17 48 ↑
- Decreases 65 31 34 ↑ 17 48 ↑
- Omitted/Passed 0 0 0 ↔ 0 0 ↔

Our sampling of dividend decreases only captured 13 of the 65 reported dividend reductions. They are predominantly concentrated in the U.S. oil and gas sector among firms that pay variable dividends to their shareholding owners. These firms have made frequent appearances in recent months, coinciding with the ~35% decline in the price of crude oil from early June through December 2022. Dividend reductions most often represent a mildly lagging indicator for declining business conditions, so their appearance in January 2023 is not unexpected.

Here's the list for our sampling, where we also find industrial representation from the real estate and financial services sectors of the economy.

Going back to the dividend metadata, we're surprised we're not seeing more firms being recorded as omitting (or suspending) their dividend payments to shareholders. We suspect Standard and Poor is including them with the number of dividend decreases they report. That makes sense since both dividend cuts and omissions count as unfavorable changes, which we're now tracking in our monthly dividend metadata summary.


Standard and Poor. S&P Market Attributes Web File. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 1 February 2023.

The S&P 500 Dividend Engine

Did you ever wonder how much money you could earn in the form of cash dividends if you were invested in the S&P 500 (Index: SPX)?

Josh Scandlen of Heritage Wealth Planning did, discovering he could use one of our signature tools, The S&P 500 at Your Fingertips, to extract the information he was after. He put together the following 14 minute YouTube video to explain both how dividends work for you as an investor and how to get cash dividend payout information from our tool:

After watching the video, we had two thoughts:

  1. That's an incredibly useful idea for investors, particularly those looking for dividend income after they retire.
  2. There's got to be a much easier way to get that dividend payout data.

Long time readers will already see where this discussion is heading! We've built a new tool, one that ties directly into the quarterly dividend data that Standard & Poor reports in spreadsheet form for its heralded S&P 500 index. In it, we put you in the shoes of someone who has either just bought into the index or has just flipped the switch to begin collecting cash dividends from it during the month ending a historic calendar quarter.

Based on the value of the investment at that point of time, it estimates the equivalent number of shares of the S&P 500 you own. It then calculates how much dividend income you would have collected at a later point of time, assuming you never sell any of the shares you own. It will also tell you how much your investment in the S&P 500 is worth at that later point of time you selected.

But that's not all! The tool also extracts how much you would have earned in dividends during the first calendar year of your investment, during the final calendar year, and also during any calendar year that might interest you in between. It will also identify the highest and lowest amount of dividends earned in any calendar year throughout your full period of interest.

If you're ready, here's the tool. If you're reading this article on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, please click through to our site to access a working version of the tool.

S&P 500 Investment Value and Dividend Payout Period
Input Data Investment Value Year Quarter
Enter Starting Investment Value and Select Starting Year and Quarter
Select Ending Year and Quarter
Optional Input Data Year
Select Year Between Starting and Ending Years to See Annual Dividend Payout

Investment and Dividend Payouts
Results Investment Value Dividends Paid Out
At the End of the Selected Period
Dividend Payout Milestones
Milestone Year Value
Dividends Paid Out By End of First Calendar Year
Dividends Paid Out Through Selected Quarter in Final Calendar Year
Dividends Paid Out During Optional Selected Year
Highest and Lowest Annual Dividend Payouts
Lowest Annual Dividend Payout
Highest Annual Dividend Payout

We've set the default data in the tool up to reflect the example Josh Scandlen worked in his video, but we've made all the quarterly dividend data we have for the S&:P 500 and its predecessor indices and component stocks going back to 1871. If you want to see that historic data, you can access it either through our The S&P 500 at Your Fingertips tool, which is updated monthly, or at our Quarterly Data for the S&P 500, Since 1871 resource, which we update annually.

Speaking of updates, we plan to update this tool in January 2023 after 2022's dividend data is available, then quarterly afterward.

Using the tool, we recommend selecting different periods and paying attention to when the lowest annual dividend payout data differs from the first year's data. The idea here is that you would want your investment to handle a worst case scenario when the market experiences a major downturn. While this will depend on what periods you might cover, we found that 1896 and 1933 represent major low points for a multi-decade investment holding period.

That said, we're celebrating our anniversary today, and what better way to do it than building on the capabilities of a tool we featured in one of our earlier anniversaries!

Celebrating Political Calculations' Anniversary

Our anniversary posts typically represent the biggest ideas and celebration of the original work we develop here each year. Here are our landmark posts from previous years:

  • A Year's Worth of Tools (2005) - we celebrated our first anniversary by listing all the tools we created in our first year. There were just 48 back then. Today, there are over 300....
  • The S&P 500 At Your Fingertips (2006) - the most popular tool we've ever created, allowing users to calculate the rate of return for investments in the S&P 500, both with and without the effects of inflation, and with and without the reinvestment of dividends, between any two months since January 1871.
  • The Sun, In the Center (2007) - we identify the primary driver of stock prices and describe a whole new way to visualize where they're going (especially in periods of order!)
  • Acceleration, Amplification and Shifting Time (2008) - we apply elements of chaos theory to describe and predict how stock prices will change, even in periods of disorder.
  • The Trigger Point for Taxes (2009) - we work out both when, and by how much, U.S. politicians are likely to change the top U.S. income tax rate. Sadly, events in recent years have proven us right.
  • The Zero Deficit Line (2010) - a whole new way to find out how much federal government spending Americans can really afford and how much Americans cannot really afford!
  • Can Increasing the Minimum Wage Boost GDP? (2011) - using data for teens and young adults spanning 1994 and 2010, not only do we demonstrate that increasing the minimum wage fails to increase GDP, we demonstrate that it reduces employment and increases income inequality as well!
  • The Discovery of the Unseen (2012) - we go where so-called experts on income inequality fear to tread and reveal that U.S. household income inequality has increased over time mostly because more Americans live alone!

We marked our 2013 anniversary in three parts, since we were telling a story too big to be told in a single blog post! Here they are:

  • The Major Trends in U.S. Income Inequality Since 1947 (2013, Part 1) - we revisit the U.S. Census Bureau's income inequality data for American individuals, families and households to see what it really tells us.
  • The Widows Peak (2013, Part 2) - we identify when the dramatic increase in the number of Americans living alone really occurred and identify which Americans found themselves in that situation.
  • The Men Who Weren't There (2013, Part 3) - our final anniversary post installment explores the lasting impact of the men who died in the service of their country in World War 2 and the hole in society that they left behind, which was felt decades later as the dramatic increase in income inequality for U.S. families and households.

Resuming our list of anniversary posts....

Dividends by the Numbers in September 2022 and 2022-Q3

The third quarter of 2022 saw the U.S. stock market's dividend paying stocks turn in another mixed performance. The following chart visualizes the count of U.S. firms either increasing or decreasing their dividends from the year-ago quarter of 2021-Q3 through the just-completed 2022-Q3.

Number of Public U.S. Firms Increasing or Decreasing Their Dividends by Quarter, 2021-Q3 through 2022-Q3

The bad news is that the number of dividend cuts has risen in 2022-Q3. Sixty firms reduced their dividend payments to shareholders. That figure is up from the previous quarter's total of 51 and is more than double the year ago quarter of 2021-Q3.

The good news is more mixed. While the number of U.S. companies boosting their dividends increased quarter-over-quarter from 346 to 368, the year-over-year data is down, falling from 2021-Q3's 395 dividend rises.

The next chart breaks down the number of dividend increases and decreases for each month from January 2004 through September 2022.

Number of Public U.S. Firms Increasing or Decreasing Their Dividends Each Month, January 2004 through September 2022

Here's how the U.S. stock market's dividend metadata has changed in September 2022 compared with August 2022's figures and with the year-ago totals recorded for September 2021:

  • A total of 4,082 U.S. firms declared dividends in September 2022, an increase of 354 from August 2022's recorded value, but 1,123 fewer than did a year earlier in September 2021.
  • 33 firms announced they would pay a special (or extra) dividend to their shareholders in September 2022, 41 less than August 2022 and 21 fewer than did in September 2021.
  • A total of 74 firms declared they would increase their dividends in September 2022. That's 75 fewer than did in August 2022 but four more than September 2021's count.
  • There were 13 dividend reductions announced during September 2022, an increase of one over August 2022's number of dividend cuts and five more than cut their dividends in September 2021.
  • Once again, zero U.S. firms omitted paying their dividends, continuing the trend established since June 2021.

Here's our sampling of announced dividend cuts for September 2022. If you're a fan of REITs that are sensitive to interest rate hikes, it wasn't a good month. If you're someone who gets upset at seeing fixed and variable dividend-paying companies listed together as dividend cutters, it's time to clutch your pearls.

We counted three variable dividend-paying firms in this month's sampling, each from the oil and gas sector, which is well below the level that would indicate developing trouble for the industry. Then again, that's looking backward and not forward in time, so let's do that next.

On 4 October 2022, accounting giant KPMG announced the results of its 2022 U.S. CEO Outlook Survey. Marketplace's David Brancaccio interviewed KPMG's Paul Knopp about the results, here's the key takeaway:

David Brancaccio: I see from your data that nearly every CEO thinks there will be a recession. But what is this, maybe I’ll be grasping at straws here, but maybe it’ll be a little recession? What are the CEOs telling you about if this is mild or severe?

Paul Knopp: David, what this survey revealed is that 91% of CEOs think there will be a recession in the next 12 months. And only one-third of those CEOs believe that that recession will be mild and short. So while the survey didn’t have anything affirmative about how long a recession would last, or the severity of a recession, it certainly is true that they’re expecting a recession, that’s not going to be just mild and short.

That's 91% of 1,325 CEOs who KPMG surveyed between 12 July and 24 August 2022 who are anticipating a recession in the next 12 months. We anticipate the U.S. stock market's metadata for dividend cuts will provide a near real-time indication of the relative health of the U.S. economy over that period, much as it has in the past.

But then, that's why we track dividends by the numbers every month, with a special focus on dividend cutters. It's among the simplest near real-time economic indicators out there!


Standard and Poor. S&P Market Attributes Web File. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 3 October 2022.

Standard and Poor. S&P Indicated Rate Change. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 3 October 2022.