Unexpectedly Intriguing!
10 July 2013

In June 2013, there were 20 public U.S. companies that announced that they would cut their dividend payments going forward. Unfortunately, that's double the level that indicates that the U.S. economy is experiencing recessionary conditions.

Number of Public U.S. Companies Posting Decreasing Dividends, January 2004 through June 2013

In the chart above, we see that the number of U.S. companies slashing their dividends first tipped over the "recession line" back in May 2012, before dipping back for a single month in July 2012, and then remaining steadily above the line ever since, with one four-month long period of extreme volatility.

The extreme volatility in the data running from December 2012 through March 2012 coincides with the so-called "fiscal cliff" tax crisis. Here, after U.S. companies raided the future to pay out extra large dividend payments before the end of 2012 to avoid the risk of having tax rates on dividends almost triple in 2013, many of these companies then announced that they would be cutting their future dividend payments in two separate waves - the first before the end of 2012, and the second before the end of the first quarter of 2013.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis will be releasing a major, mulit-year revision of the nation's GDP at the end of July 2013 - it will be interesting to see if any part of the period since May 2012 will be reclassified as having experienced the negative growth that corresponds to periods of outright recession.

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