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Stocks have two big tailwinds pushing them higher

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Trader on NYSE May 3, 2021.

Source: NYSE

It’s no longer just about profits: dividends and huge inflows are helping stocks fuel their powers.

April trading data is in and shows two surprises: a surge in dividends and huge inflows into stocks even stronger than in the first three months of the year.

Dividends are back

In April 2020, two dozen S&P 500 companies cut or suspended their dividends. More suspensions and dividends came later in the year.

In April 2121, the opposite happened: 33 S&P 500 companies announced dividend increases. None announced a decline and none suspended dividends.

In particular, 11 companies that had suspended dividends in 2020 paid again in April:

Reinstatement of dividends
Ross Stores
TJX
HCA healthcare
Universal health services
McMoRan Freeport
Estee Lauder
Kimco Realty
Darden restaurants
Weyerhauser
Marathon oil

Three of them – TJX, HCA Healthcare, and Freeport McMoRan – are paying higher dividends than they were before the payments were suspended.

“The bottom line is that companies had no idea what was going on a year ago,” said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Global Indices. “Now there is much better clarity and you are ready to put your money where your mouth is.”

Will it go on? Silverblatt estimates the dividend payout for the S&P 500 will increase 5% in 2021.

That would mean a payout to investors of around $ 515 billion, up from $ 483 billion in 2020.

“There’s money in your pocket,” Silverblatt told me. “Remember, when a company pays a dividend, it is expected to keep that dividend going. It is a company obligation, and you don’t make that decision lightly.”

Investors enthusiastic: The large inflows into ETFs continue

Near record breaking inflows into ESG, thematic technology and other areas are also supporting prices.

Exchange-traded funds started the year with just under $ 6 trillion in assets under management, and inflows continued steadily every month through 2021.

According to ETF Trends, an additional $ 55 billion was invested in equity ETFs in April, representing a total inflow of $ 258 billion since the beginning of the year. 2021 is sure to see a lot higher equity inflows than 2020When investors panicked, they tossed money into pension funds.

“The money comes from everywhere,” said Harry Whitton, senior vice president at Old Mission, an ETF market maker. “There are still people at home who are putting money into the markets. They are seeing a lot of interest in [Environmental, Social and Governance] ETFs. You continue to see money flowing out of mutual funds as well as into ETFs. “

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Robert Dunfee