2007 was a great year for dividend growth investors with over 60% of the S&P constituents increasing their dividends. On average the companies comprising the S&P 500 increased their dividend payments by a healthy 9.7%. Total dividends paid by S&P 500 companies broke a new record with a whooping $256.6 billion distributed to shareholders. This is up $31.8 billion from $224.8 billion in 2006.
According to S&P analysts dividends will continue to rise 2008 with the average estimated increase to be 9.3%. However, this growth is not expected to be evenly distributed amongst the S&P 500 group of companies. U.S financials are going to be the obvious laggards as virtually all growth in that sector is expected to be muted by the on going sub-prime fiasco.
My personal opinion is that 2008 will be a terrible year for large dividend paying U.S financials. However, I also believe that they will probably be over punished, over sold and possibly ignored by many investors. Thus creating the possibility of 2008 being a once in a decade buying opportunity for quality, dividend paying large cap U.S financials.