Published: November 6, 2009
I'd bet that most
readers know about the S&P Dividend Aristocrats Index.
To be included in this index, an S&P 500 company must have
raised its dividend annually for at least the past 25 years. The
standard is brutal: One slip and you're out. Start all over and
compile another spotless dividend track record over the next 25
This is an index of the bluest of blue-chip dividend stocks. But
I've found a little-known "sister" index that income investors
might find even more interesting...
Strong Appeal for Income Investors
How can you improve on an index that contains some of the best
dividend-payers in history? The S&P's High Yield Dividend
Aristocrats Index has just the answer.
This index holds companies to the same lofty standard of at
least 25 consecutive years of dividend increases. But it selects
companies from the S&P 1500, which includes mid-sized and
small-cap companies. That means the High Yield Dividend
Aristocrats are put together in such a way as to balance both
growth and income, as opposed to the Dividend Aristocrats Index,
which is focused mainly on income generation.
The two indices have other important differences as well. For
starters, the plain Dividend Aristocrats Index is constructed of
a shifting number of stocks, all of which have an equal
In contrast, the high-yield version is built around a fixed
number of companies -- 50 of them, to be exact. Instead of being
equally weighted, each company is weighted according to its
dividend yield. The companies with the highest yields exert the
most influence on the index's performance.
To prevent a handful of stocks from having too much influence,
no one stock can have more than a 4% weight in the portfolio.
Additional criteria for inclusion are that the stock must have a
market capitalization of at least $500 million dollars and trade
a minimum of 1.5 million shares in a calendar month.
And since the High Yield Dividend Aristocrats Index includes
stocks from any of 10 economic sectors, it offers more
diversification than many high-yield indices, which focus only
on securities from traditional income sectors such as financials
and utilities. As of June 30th, four sectors made up more than
two-thirds of the High Yield Aristocrats. The leading sector was
financials (23%), followed by utilities (16%), industrials (15%)
and consumer discretionary (14%). Not a single energy stock,
although the group makes up more than 13% of the S&P, made the
cut for the index.
The High Yield Aristocrats are no slouches when it comes to
returns either. An S&P study showed that the index outperformed
the S&P 500 for a decade in virtually all types of market
conditions. For the 10 years ended June 30, 2009, the index beat
the S&P by nearly five percentage points. For the last five
years, the results have been similar.
It is in bear markets, however, that the role of dividends in
cushioning stock price declines is most important. In 2008, the
S&P 500 declined -37%, but the High Yield Dividend Aristocrats
Index was off by just -23% -- a roughly 1,400 basis point
And in the March to June 2009 quarter, which saw a sharp rally
off a bear market bottom, the index performed virtually on par
with the S&P 500. Both gained nearly +16% for the period.
In a variety of market conditions, this little-known index has
been able to match -- and usually beat -- the broader markets,
while also paying a higher yield.
Given the relative strength of the High Yield Aristocrats,
owning a share of royalty may not be a bad idea. The easiest way
to invest is to buy the exchange-traded fund (ETF) designed to
mirror its performance, the SPDR S&P Dividend (NYSE: SDY).
During the past four quarters, SDY paid $1.88 per share, so it's
yielding about 4.5% at the current prices.
But if you're looking for even higher yields, you might try some
of the individual stocks contained within the actual index.
-- Carla Pasternak
P.S. -- In my November issue of
I took a peek inside the High Yield Dividend Aristocrats Index.
In particular, I highlighted one stock that is yielding 6.2%,
but the best part is that this company is poised to grow
earnings +69% in 2010. To learn more, please
visit this link.