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This Simple Stock Market Strategy Would Have Increased Returns 926%

By Tom Dyson, publisher, The Palm Beach Letter
Friday, June 24, 2011

"Dividends don't matter."
I was playing golf with a stock trader last weekend. When I told him I specialize in stocks that pay dividends, he gave me a look of condescension.
"I don't understand what the big deal is with dividends," he explained. "The stock falls by the amount of the dividend, so you can't benefit from it. Total return is the only thing that matters."
On the surface, my golf partner is right. A dividend is simply a cash payout from the company to the shareholder. Whatever the shareholder gains, the company loses. So it seems shareholders don't actually come out ahead.
But as I'll show you today, to say cash payouts like these don't matter is wrong. They improve returns by thousands of percent over the long term.
My friend Meb Faber proved this to me the other day...
Meb is a professional stock market number cruncher, or as he calls himself, a "quant." He's used his skills to create some incredible investing strategies. (You can read more about them here and here.) He also launched an ETF (the symbol is GTAA) so you can follow his system with just one click.
Meb recently crunched the numbers on dividends and other cash payouts and found something amazing.
He started with the Russell 3000, an index of 3000 small-cap stocks. Since 1972, the market-cap weighted Russell 3000 index gained 9.98% a year on average. But when Meb took the highest dividend payers in the index, (the top 10% of dividend payers), he found they returned 13.29% per year... an improvement of more than 3% over the common index.
Meb didn't end his study there...
When most people think of companies returning cash to investors, they think of dividends. But there are two other ways a company returns cash to shareholders.
Stock buybacks are the first way. A company might decide to pay shareholders by buying back its own stock in the open market. To an accountant, it's an identical transaction as a dividend. Cash leaves the company. Cash goes to the shareholders. The difference is, instead of sending each shareholder a check for, say, $100, the company causes the investors' stock to rise in value by $100.
The shareholder has a capital gain instead of a cash income, but the result to the shareholder is the same.
The second way a company returns cash to shareholders without paying dividends is by paying down debt. Cash flows from the company and accrues to shareholders, just like a dividend. In this case, the cash pays off a bondholder who has a senior claim to the stockholder. Once the bondholder is out of the way, the shareholder is that much closer to the future profits.
When you include these two additional ways companies return cash to shareholders, you get the true "cash" yield to shareholders. Meb calls this the "shareholder yield."
Meb repeated his study on the Russell 3000, taking total shareholder yield into account. This is what he found...
Average Annual Return
Russell 3000
Dividend Yield (top 10%)
Shareholder Yield (top 10%)
Earning 9.98% over 38 years turns $1,000 into $37,147. Earning 16.93% a year over 38 years turns $1,000 into $381,229.
In other words, over 38 years, that annual difference of nearly 7% would have increased your total returns by 926%.
The conclusion is, my golf buddy is totally wrong. Stocks that pay out cash generate far higher returns than stocks that don't.
If you're investing for high returns and are ignoring stocks that pay cash out to shareholders, you're missing the point. You should almost always favor companies that pay out cash to investors over those that don't.
Good investing,

Further Reading:

Dan Ferris calls a special group of dividend stocks "the best investments around." And he says "they'll beat the stock market, year after year." Find out which stocks fit that category here: Where to Find Extraordinary Income Streams That Always Go Up.
If you're focused on income, Dan's got three charts you need to see. Find them here: Show These Charts to Every Retiree You Know.

Market Notes


Our last entry in Market Notes "Housing Week" shows just how far homes have fallen in "real money" terms. And by "real money," we mean gold.
Regular readers know we encourage folks to take into account a variety of perspectives when judging price action in assets, products, and services. This means looking at things in ratios (like crude oil-to-natural gas) and in terms of non-dollar currencies (like the Swiss franc). Taking this "cosmopolitan" approach lets you see things others do not.
So today, we're taking the ultimate cosmopolitan view and looking at U.S. housing in terms of gold. Yes, we know you can't pay the electric bill or buy a new car with gold, but gold is the only form of money that has been around for thousands of years. It's a currency politicians cannot debase at will. In this age of graft, socialism, and a "spend and borrow our way to prosperity" mentality, gold is vital.
So... what could an individual who took our advice to buy gold many years ago do with his hundreds of percent gains in regards to U.S. housing? Our chart below, which shows the median U.S. home priced in gold terms, says, "Quite a lot."
From 1981 through 2004, housing soared against gold. But the big "housing down, gold up" dynamic of the past six years has sent U.S. homes crashing in gold terms. Bottom line: If you've increased your wealth with gold over the past five to 10 years, consider taking some of the winnings and buying a dirt-cheap house.

Housing has suffered a brutal crash in gold terms

In The Daily Crux

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