February means Groundhog Day, griping about the cold and ... gratitude for dividends.
Now that most companies have closed the books on and reported their 2013 results, they’re sizing up how much they can increase their payouts to shareholders. February has historically been the month in which investors see the most dividend increases. It’s been the case for each of the last three years and for seven of the last nine years.
It likely doesn’t hurt that many companies are looking ahead to their annual meetings with shareholders, notes Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices. Increasing dividends is like offering their investors catnip beforehand.
Hasbro on Monday was one of the latest companies to raise its dividend, boosting its quarterly payout 8 percent to 43 cents. That helped the toymaker’s investors overlook its disappointing sales during the holiday season and weaker-than-expected earnings.
At the end of last year, 418 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index paid a dividend. That’s the highest number since 1998, and continued profit growth is enabling them to pay more. Analysts say earnings per share rose 7.5 percent for the S&P 500 to a record high in the fourth quarter of 2013 from a year earlier.Associated Press