Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How dividend growth stocks outperform the market

The following graph plots the weekly returns of the market versus VIG (Yahoo! Finance), the dividend growth ETF from Vanguard, which I use as a proxy for dividend growth stocks:

The graph shows that dividend growth stocks have a higher peak than the market and the distribution of weekly returns "spreads" less, that is, the distribution has a lower standard deviation, and is therefore less risky (Wikipedia). With dividend growth stocks, probability is concentrated in the center -- with a much smaller left tail and a smaller right tail than the market. Thus, dividend growth stocks do not suffer from collapses and manias nearly as much as the market -- especially with regard to collapses -- and their outperformance during bear markets more than makes up for their somewhat muted performance during bull markets. Net, they march silently up and to the right.

The following statistics compare dividend growth and the market:

Dividend Growth Market Difference
Mean 0.14 0.11 0.03
Standard Deviation 2.26 2.61 -0.34
Quantiles: 0% -15.76 -18.20 2.44
25% -0.95 -1.06 0.11
50% 0.29 0.22 0.07
75% 1.41 1.42 0.00
100% 10.42 12.03 -1.60

As unquestionable positives, dividend growth stocks have:

  • a higher mean than the market,
  • a lower standard deviation,
  • a higher median, and
  • a shorter left-tail.

In exchange, what dividend growth stocks give up is:
  • a shorter right-tail.

The following plots show the spread of returns in another way. The line within the boxes is the median, the lower border the 25th percentile, the upper border the 75th percentile. The first plot compares the full pattern of returns (extreme returns show up as gray points though you have to look closely to spot the gray dots -- they also appear as duplicates, though this is not relevant here, and I ignore this):

The second plot zooms in on the left tail. Importantly, dividend growth stocks perform quite a bit better than the market in the left tail --  these are weekly returns so the 0.11 difference, as shown in the table above, is material. These stocks do not collapse nearly as much as the market when the nasty times arrive. In my opinion, this relative outperformance is one of the key reasons long-term investors should invest in dividend growth stocks.

The third plot zooms in on the right tail. Importantly, dividend growth stocks perform just slightly weaker than the market in the right tail --  the difference is just 0.01:

Thus, dividend growth stocks underperform during bull markets (but not by much, in general) and outperform during bear markets (by a lot). This combination helps ensure good risk-adjusted long-term returns and explains how dividend growth stocks outperform the market.

As far as the current (early 2016) market malaise goes, not surprisingly, dividend growth stocks are outperforming the market. Admittedly, they are getting hit but these are high-quality companies and they are not getting hit nearly as much as many other segments of the market, or the market itself:

An important tenet of Investing in Dividend Growth Stocks (Amazon) is that dividend growth stocks are core holdings because they generate good long-term risk-adjusted returns. They do so through a combination of moderate returns and relatively low volatility. Quoting from page 20:

"[A] portfolio [of dividend growth stocks] rises less than the market during bull markets and falls less than the market during bear markets. The latter more than makes up for the former. These stocks march to the beat of a different drummer -- but a very sensible one."

In my opinion, these stocks are excellent long-term investments (subject to not paying too much, as always, of course) for anyone who wants to preserve and build their wealth.

These are not gimmicky companies or slow-growth companies or risky companies. These are companies that last. They grow moderately over long periods, which when combined with relatively low return volatility results in strong gains in long-term wealth.

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