Should You Follow a High-Dividend Stock Strategy?

Last Updated Jun 21, 2010 9:32 AM EDT

If you follow my blog, you know that much of the conventional wisdom about investing is more myth than reality. Another bit of conventional wisdom receiving a lot of press regards buying stocks that pay high dividends. Whenever markets come under pressure, people seem to think "at least you're getting the dividend return while you wait for markets to turn around." Let's see if a high-dividend strategy is a good one.

First, let's discuss the value premium. Historically, value stocks have outperformed growth stocks. However, there are various fundamental ratios that can be used to distinguish between the two groups. The most frequently used ones are:
  • Book-to-market (BtM)
  • Earnings-to-price (E/P)
  • Cash flow-to-price (C/P)
  • Dividend-to-price (D/P)
Another methodology would be to require a stock to pass all four screens. In other words, a high dividend strategy is really a value strategy.

Economists typically define value stocks as those that rank in the highest 30 percent by BtM and growth stocks as those that rank in the bottom 30 percent -- the middle 40 percent are called core. An August 2008 paper "Defining Value and Growth" by James Davis and Inmoo Lee of Dimensional Fund Advisors examined the results of various value strategies. The following is a summary of their findings:
  • While there's substantial overlap in the rankings (for example, about 50 percent of the stocks defined as value by BtM are also defined as value by C/P), there are substantial differences. This can result in material differences in returns.
  • When using market-cap-weighted returns (as equal weighting would create excessive turnover) for the period June 1964-June 2008, D/P produced the lowest value premium.

Annual Premium (%)

BtM

4.68

E/P

5.15

C/P

4.19

D/P

2.21

All four

5.65

It's important to note that the three categories besides D/P had a t-stat of 2 or greater, meaning the results are considered statistically significant. On the other hand, D/P had a t-stat around 1.

However, looking only at the premiums of the different value strategies isn't sufficient to determine the best value strategy. There are two other considerations we'll discuss in our next post: turnover and diversification.
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    Larry Swedroe is a principal and director of research for the BAM Alliance. He has authored or co-authored 12 books, including his most recent, Think, Act, and Invest Like Warren Buffett. His opinions and comments expressed on this site are his own and may not accurately reflect those of the firm.

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