Last year, global dividends topped $1 trillion ($1.03 trillion to be precise). U.S. stocks were big factors in that equation with S&P 500 payouts soaring to record of nearly $312 billion and U.S. dividends reached another record in the first quarter.
But while the U.S. was a dividend leader last year and emerging markets contributed $1 to every $7 paid dividends globally, Europe ex-U.K. lagged in dividend growth terms. “British listed companies paid $102. 1 billion in dividends last year, and since 2009 have paid roughly $441 billion,” according to the Independent. The Independent goes on to note British firms accounted for 11% of global dividends last year, a percentage that only the U.S. beats. [The Case for U.K. Dividends]
Low interest rates, a recovery Eurozone economy and increasing cash hoards could foster improved European dividend growth this year. European firms have a combined $2.8 trillion in cash on hand, the most since 2003 and “companies of the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index will pay 11.54 euros a share in dividends this year, the most since data going back to 2002,” reports Namitha Jagadeesh for Bloomberg.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the WisdomTree Europe SmallCap Dividend Fund (NYSEArca: DFE) has been the best performing Europe ETF dating back to the start of 2013, gaining 55.3% since then. [Small-Caps Recover in Europe]
The dividend yield on DFE’s underlying index is 3.7%, nearly double that of the S&P 500, according to WisdomTree. DFE has been bolstered by the recovery in European small-caps along with investors preferring to wade back into Europe with steadier fare such as U.K. and Swiss stocks. Those countries combine for over 34% of DFE’s weight.