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Net US dividends surged 44% YOY in Q4, S&P Dow Jones reports

Net increases in dividend payments for U.S. domestic common stocks jumped 44.2% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2019 as the amount of dividend cuts shrank by more than half, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Dividend increases during the fourth quarter amounted to $11.97 billion, while dividend cuts totaled $1.35 billion. That translated to a dividend net increase of $10.6 billion in the quarter, up from a net gain of $7.4 billion in the year-ago period.

The fourth-quarter total for dividend cuts marked a decline of 69.9% from the same quarter of 2018, when General Electric Co. announced a dividend decrease of $3.82 billion, S&P Dow Jones Indices said.

For the full year, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported a net increase of $45.4 billion in dividend payments, down from a gain of $58.4 billion in 2018. Total dividend increases came in at $56.6 billion, while dividend cuts were at $11.1 billion.

The rate of growth in fourth-quarter dividend payments slowed from the prior year, when companies cited their tax savings in their statements, according to Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

"Looking at the full year 2020, absent a major event or Washington policy change, dividends could return to their double-digit growth rate, rewarding income-seekers in an otherwise lackluster income environment," Silverblatt said.

Fourth-quarter dividend payments by S&P 500 companies grew year over year to a record $126.4 billion from $119.8 billion. On a per-share basis, S&P 500 dividend payments in the fourth quarter came in at $15.21, also a record high and up from $14.19 a year earlier.

Dividend yields of large-cap stocks narrowed to 1.86% in the fourth quarter of 2019 from 1.98% in the third quarter. Mid-cap yields shrank to 1.68% from 1.72% over the same period, and small-cap yields narrowed to 1.56% from 1.58%.

S&P Dow Jones Indices and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.