Dividend investors overall reaped a record payoff in the first 3 months of 2018

Companies in the S&P 500 spent a record amount on dividend payments in the first three months of the year, with companies paying out larger sums and a greater number of companies doling out dividends in the first quarter following the passage of the tax-reform bill.

According to data from S&P Dow Jones Indices, indicated net dividend increases for U.S. common stocks rose by $18.8 billion in the first quarter, compared with the $10.9 billion rise in the first quarter of 2017 and the gain of $4.5 billion of the fourth quarter. Net increases is the amount of total dividend increases minuses the decreases.

On an aggregate basis, investors received $109.2 billion in dividends in the quarter, compared with $100.9 billion in the first quarter of 2017. On a per-share basis, dividend payments were at $12.79 a share—a record.

There were 948 dividend increases reported in the quarter, up 7.6% from the 881 increases that were announced in the first three months of 2017. The median increase was a boost of 10.3%.

“At this point, given the record cash levels, repatriation and expected record earnings helped by lower tax rates, 2018 could post its seventh consecutive year of record payments. There is potential for a return to double-digit gains, last seen during 2015,” said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

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On the downside, 167 issues cut their payouts, compared with the 166 that did in the first quarter of 2017.

For companies paying a dividend, the weighted yield was 2.51%, compared with the 2.36% weighted yield in the fourth quarter. Yields rise as stock prices fall if the payout remains consistent; the S&P 500  fell 1.2% in the first quarter, .

Currently, the dividend yield of the S&P 500 is 1.87%. The yield of the 10-year U.S. Treasury note  is 2.76%.