Stock buybacks have helped support market gains, but investors are shifting away from the theme and turning back to dividend stocks and related exchange traded funds.

So far in August, the PowerShares Buyback Achievers Portfolio (NYSEArca: PKW), which includes U.S. companies that have effected a net reduction in shares outstanding by 5% or more over the trailing 12 month period, has seen $101.4 million in net outflows, according to ETF.com.

The S&P 500 Buyback index, which equally weights 100 U.S. stocks with the largest buybacks, has underperformed over the past six months, reports James Mackintosh for the Financial Times.

According to Robert Schwob of Style Research, buybacks are being issued by companies with slower top-line growth and weak earnings outlook. Moreover, buybacks typically involve greater debt as companies borrow on record low rates, making the strategy tougher to sell to investors.

Alternatively, investors may be shifting over to stable dividend growers. For instance, the ProShares S&P 500 Aristocrats ETF (NYSEArca: NOBL) tracks dividend aristocrats, or S&P 500 members that have increased dividends for at least 25 consecutive years.

NOBL has also been an outperforming strategy among dividend stock ETFs or at least has not done as poorly as others. NOBL is flat so far this year and the ETF gained 9.0% over the past year.

Dividend stocks are once again beating the market as bond yields fall – lower rates make dividend-paying stocks more appealing, and dividend aristocrats are more attractive during volatile global conditions.

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