Any supporters of the Aussie Test Cricket team who watched the recent Headingly Test would have felt like they were on an emotional rollercoaster akin to the uncertainty, fluctuations and volatility that financial markets can deliver.
When the English captain J. E. Root fell to N. M. Lyon (aka the ‘Greatest of All Time’) on the 3rd ball he bowled that day, The Ashes were all but retained, but alas it was not to be. To be fair, it was an outstanding game of cricket in anyone’s language…probably one the Aussies let slip through their fingers, but hats off to B. A. Stokes who played one of Test cricket’s all-time mighty innings under intense pressure to keep England ‘alive’.
What does Test cricket have to do with dividends?
Well, dividends can provide certainty of returns…unlike that damn Headingly Test.
Dividends have been, are, and always will be an important component of portfolio construction because:
- They provide a reliable source of returns from Australian companies year-in, year-out.
- The amounts paid are not impacted by the current level of the share market.
- The dividend yield can act as a ‘safety net’ in times of volatility.
A source of reliable returns
Over the long term, returns from equities come from capital growth and the dividends paid along the way. Below is a comparison of the returns from those two sources over the last 20 & 40 years:
As can be seen from the table above, dividends have provided more than half of the returns over the last 20 years, and 40% of returns over 40 years. When you include the benefits of franking credits to those who can receive a refund thereof, the importance of dividends is paramount.
The level of the share market has no impact
While capital returns are affected by share market movement, dividends are dependent on the underlying earnings of a company, not the fluctuation of the share price. The amount of dividends paid and ratio of profits paid out as a dividend is decided solely by the company’s Board of Directors.
Since the dividend is a reflection of the company’s profitability and not the current share price, it is important to remember in periods of volatility and negative share price performance, dividends received from quality companies with the right fundamentals should not vary greatly from one period to the next. The chart below demonstrates the deviation away from the ‘standard’ returns from both sources:
From the above we can clearly see the returns achieved from dividends hardly fluctuated over that 20 year period. This is further highlighted in the chart below:
The returns from dividends, as evidenced by the orange bar, are not impacted by volatility and fluctuations of the share market.
The safety net effect
Short term share price movements over 6-12 months are generally a reflection of the mood of investors based on predictions of economic growth, interest rates or inflation…or what seems to be more common lately, a tweet from ‘The Donald’!
With the benefit of hindsight however, more often than not these events which have created the mood swings that led to large declines in share markets have turned out to be not as bad for markets as we thought at the time. Take the war with Iraq as an example. At the time, there were many predictions of ‘doom-and-gloom’ and an impending global recession which caused panic selling even by companies demonstrating the strongest of fundamentals.
Once panic subsides and some normalcy is restored after such an event, the companies with a reliable and predictable growing earnings and dividend stream experience the quickest rebound in their share price. This is because rational long-term investors are attracted to quality companies at the right price.
Never underestimate the part dividends play in the performance of your investments.
Here’s hoping the last 2 Tests of the current Ashes series provide the Aussie Test team with a healthy dividend. After Headingly, one suspects they’re up against it…