3 reasons dividend stocks can lead the next bull market
Dividend stocks can lead the next bull market
After a bull market like the one we experienced prior to 2022, it can be tempting to stick to the same investment strategies that have been working. But the underlying economic factors are set to be materially different in the coming years, which means the market is likely to look very different from what we’ve seen in the past 10-plus years.
This sets the stage for a market that grinds higher, led by large, profitable, dividend-paying companies. Here are three reasons dividend stocks can lead the next bull market.
Dividends may make up a larger portion of the total return
Over the past decade, dividends have contributed less than 25 per cent of the S&P 500’s total return, as years of low interest rates helped inflate asset valuations. Historically, though, dividends have made up a larger portion of the market’s total return. Dividends have accounted for an average of 40 per cent of the S&P 500’s total return since the 1930s, according to data from Fidelity Investments.
If inflation remains high, it will be very difficult for the market to grow via multiple expansion as it has during the past 10 years. This opens the door to dividends regressing to the long-term mean and making up a larger percentage of the total return than it has recently.
Valuations are attractive for dividend stocks
Dividend-paying stocks are currently undervalued relative to the broader market judging by the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio. The P/E for dividend-paying stocks in the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats was lower than the P/E for the S&P 500 as of Dec. 30, 2022. This suggests dividend-paying stocks may offer better value for investors compared to non-dividend-paying stocks.
This is common during a bear market like the one we experienced last year. The good is thrown out with the bad, as companies with consistent earnings are sold off with the same urgency as less profitable companies. This creates an opportunity that can be identified by using the P/E ratio.
Great companies with robust business models and long histories of profitability rarely go on sale, so this can be a great opportunity to add quality names to a portfolio.
Better track record
Dividend-paying stocks have outperformed non-dividend-paying stocks over long periods of time. A study of the S&P/TSX composite index from 1986 to 2021 by RBC Global Asset Management found that stocks growing their dividend had an average annual return of 11.2 per cent compared to 6.5 per cent for the overall index and an abysmal 1.4 per cent for non-dividend-paying stocks.
This trend has even held up during economic recessions, as dividend-paying stocks have shown to be more stable and less volatile than non-dividend-paying stocks. For example, the same RBC study found that dividend-paying stocks in the composite index had a standard deviation (a measure of volatility) of 13.9 per cent, compared to 23.3 per cent for non-dividend paying stocks. This indicates dividend-paying stocks have been less volatile over the long term.
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Where investors might want to look if interest rates and inflation persist
Despite the potential for market turbulence in the near term, dividend stocks remain a good option for investors looking to weather any upcoming volatility and maximize their returns over the long term.
Remember that investing in the stock market carries risks and a professional investment adviser can help assess your investment goals and risk tolerance and develop a personalized investment strategy tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.
Taylor Burns is an investment adviser at Manulife Securities Inc. and Balanced Financial Wealth Management. The opinions expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of Manulife Securities Inc.
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