With the S&P 500 resting near all-time highs, investors that are concerned about generating further upside might want consider turning to dividend stocks and exchange traded funds. At least that is one way of interpreting some recent advice from Goldman Sachs.

The venerable Wall Street bank expects dividend yield to be the “sole contributor to total return during the next 12 months,” reports Mark Melin for ValueWalk.

Net dividend increases rose $12.6 billion in the first quarter “down from the $17.9 billion increase during the first quarter of 2014. The dollar amount decline equates to a 30.0% year-over-year slowdown in dividend increases. For the 12 months ending March 2015, dividend net increases fell 17.7% to $49.6 billion compared to an increase of $60.1 billion for the corresponding period in 2014,” according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Although the first quarter was another sturdy period for payout increases, some dividend ETFs have struggled to keep pace with the S&P 500 this year. Of the four largest U.S. dividend ETFs, none have outpaced the benchmark U.S index this year and only the Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (NYSEArca: VYM) is up at least 2%. [Opportunity in a Favored Dividend ETF]

With Treasury yields on the rise, dividend ETFs heavy on consumer staples and utilities have lagged as those rate-sensitive sectors have come under pressure. The $14.8 billion iShares Select Dividend ETF (NYSEArca: DVY) allocates 44% of its combined weight to the utilities and staples sectors. The $4.9 billion iShares Core High Dividend ETF (NYSEArca: HDV) devotes over 30% of its combined weight to staples and utilities stocks.

If yields fall, that would “be positive for shareholders of high dividend yielding stocks in the consumer staples and utilities sectors,” notes S&P Capital IQ. But 10-year yields are rising and DVY and HDV have returned -0.58% and 0.88% this year. [Investors Flee Bond Proxy ETFs]

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