The retirement income problem became more complicated in the first quarter of 2016 as U.S. companies ratcheted down their dividend growth.
According to Chicago-based Henderson Global Investors, U.S. dividend growth slowed to 6.8 percent in nominal terms, and 8.1 percent in real terms for the quarter to $108 billion. By comparison, U.S. dividends grew by 14.1 percent nominally and 10.2 percent in real terms during the fourth quarter of 2015.
Global dividends, the Henderson Global Dividend Study found, grew by 2.2 percent in the first quarter to $218 billion total, buoyed in part by a weaker dollar. Total first-quarter global dividends rose by $4.7 billion, or 3.1 percent, year over year.
In the fourth quarter, global dividends grew by 9.9 percent, but declined by 2.2 percent in real terms because of the relative strength of the U.S. dollar. Since Henderson measures dividend payouts in U.S. dollars, currency fluctuations impact their real value.
"The impact of falling commodity prices is likely to drag on dividends for the next 12 months,” says Ben Lofthouse, co-manager of Henderson’s Global Equity Income Fund. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen 9 percent dividend growth. Now we’re seeing it slow quite a bit, but for perspective, dividend growth is still beating inflation and generating an attractive real return.”
Over the rest of the year, Henderson expects global dividends to rise 3.9 percent to an annual total of $1.18 trillion, an underlying increase of 3.3 percent.
“While the dollar has weakened a bit, the euro is a bit stronger and currency is still a negative impact on dividends year over year,” Lofthouse says. “If currencies remain stable, their impact will become positive by the end of the year and the headline numbers will exceed underlying dividend growth.”
Dividend payments in Japan, North American and Europe were responsible for the bulk of the growth, while Asia, the UK and emerging markets lagged.
Lofthouse says that dividend growth is likely to continue in some international markets regardless of macroeconomic conditions.