Another sign of the shaky stock market: Fewer companies have been raising or initiating dividends in 2016 than in years past. According to S&P Dow Jones Indices, 84 companies have made a positive move (either initiating or increasing a dividend this year) versus 106 positive actions in the first two months of 2015.
Even those companies that have been increasing their payouts have been doing so at lower rates than in years past. Those stocks have raised dividends by an average of 10 percent this year, compared to 13 percent in 2015, 18 percent in 2014 and 20 percent in 2013.
This February is still much stronger for dividends than a truly bad month. In February of 2009, when the market was imploding, only 30 companies raised their dividends versus 55 so far in 2016. Also, 18 stocks lowered their dividend in February 2009 and five suspended theirs, compared to three decreases and one suspension this month.