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Dividends Have Stabilized After a Challenging 2020: What Comes Next?

SPIVA Latin America Year-End 2020 Scorecard: Active Managers Missed an Opportunity

S&P Global Clean Energy Index Expands

Renewable Diesel Feedstock – Green Fuel and Affordable Food Part 2

S&P BSE SENSEX Indices Reach All-Time Highs in Q1 2021

Dividends Have Stabilized After a Challenging 2020: What Comes Next?

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Simeon Hyman

Global Investment Strategist, Head of Investment Strategy



When the pandemic began, many investors feared widespread dividend cuts. However, while some companies did cut or suspended their dividends, the damage was largely confined to the pandemic’s early stages. Once the economy began to stabilize, so did dividends. By the end of 2020, approximately three times as many companies in the S&P 500 raised their dividends as cut them.

This distinction in dividend policy had a significant impact on performance. Across the market-cap spectrum, dividend growers outperformed dividend cutters by approximately 20%. Dividend strategies focused on high yield (represented by the Dow Jones U.S. Select Dividend Index) held proportionately more dividend cutters and saw their performance struggle. Dividend growth strategies (represented by the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index) fared much better.


Although more companies grew their dividends than cut them in 2020, the rate of dividend growth among large-cap stocks has actually been trending lower for the last several years. And mid-cap stocks fared even worse, posting a dividend decline of roughly 8% for 2020.

Against this backdrop, one obvious place to look for sustainable and increasing income is dividend growth strategies. While dividends for the broad-market indexes were flat or down, S&P Dividend Aristocrat strategies delivered robust rates of dividend growth.


Analyzing cash flows can help identify companies capable of producing durable dividends. Over time, companies must create enough cash flow to pay expenses, invest in their business via capital expenditures, service their debt, and (sometimes) return money to shareholders via dividends and buybacks.

Free cash flow (“FCF”) measures the cash left over after a company pays its operating expenses and capital expenditures, and it represents the resources available to pay dividends.

Cash Flows from Operations (CFO) – Capital Expenditures = Free Cash Flow

Free cash flows can be turned into a payout ratio by calculating how much the company’s free cash flows it pays out in dividends.

Dividends / Free Cash Flow = Free Cash Flow Payout Ratio

A lower payout ratio gives companies the flexibility to continue paying and growing dividends, even if cash flows fluctuate. In contrast, companies with high payout ratios have very little flexibility and may have to cut or suspend dividends if earnings and cash flow falter. Dividend growth strategies generally appear better positioned, relative to high dividend yielding strategies, to sustain and grow their dividends.

While the worst of the pandemic’s impact on dividends appears to be behind us, we urge dividend investors to remain vigilant. Making a distinction between dividend growth and high yield strategies had important implications in 2020, and it will remain a key topic moving forward in 2021.


This is not intended to be investment advice. Any forward-looking statements herein are based on expectations of ProShare Advisors LLC at this time. ProShare Advisors LLC undertakes no duty to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

Investing is currently subject to additional risks and uncertainties related to COVID-19, including general economic, market and business conditions; changes in laws or regulations or other actions made by governmental authorities or regulatory bodies; and world economic and political developments.

The “S&P 500® Dividend Aristocrats® Index” and “S&P MidCap 400® Dividend Aristocrats Index” are products of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and its affiliates. All have been licensed for use by ProShares. “S&P®” is a registered trademark of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC (“S&P”) and “Dow Jones®” is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC (“Dow Jones”) and have been licensed for use by S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and its affiliates. ProShares have not been passed on by these entities and their affiliates as to their legality or suitability. ProShares based on these indexes are not sponsored, endorsed, sold or promoted by these entities and their affiliates, and they make no representation regarding the advisability of investing in ProShares. THESE ENTITIES AND THEIR AFFILIATES MAKE NO WARRANTIES AND BEAR NO LIABILITY WITH RESPECT TO PROSHARES.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

SPIVA Latin America Year-End 2020 Scorecard: Active Managers Missed an Opportunity

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Maria Sanchez

Director, Sustainability Index Product Management, U.S. Equity Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

The recently published SPIVA® Latin America Year-End 2020 Scorecard shows that the volatile environment of 2020, though potentially favorable for high-conviction active managers, did not necessarily translate into success for active managers.

SPIVA scorecards measure the performance of active funds against an appropriate benchmark. For Latin America, S&P Dow Jones Indices began publishing the scorecard in 2014, covering Brazil, Chile, and Mexico.

As of year-end 2020, all categories across all three countries underperformed their benchmarks over the 1-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year periods. These results contrasted those of the SPIVA Latin America Mid-Year 2020 Scorecard, in which Brazilian active managers in the Brazil Equity Funds, Brazil Large-Cap Funds, and Brazil Corporate Bond Funds categories managed to take advantage of the circumstances and outperform over the one-year period (see Exhibit 1).

Median fund managers across all the categories in the report underperformed their benchmarks over 1-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year periods (see Exhibit 2). However, in five out of seven categories, active managers in the first quartile beat their benchmarks over the one- and three-year periods (see Exhibit 3). Top-performing managers in the Brazil Equity Funds category were even able to outperform over the 10-year period.

As evidenced by SPIVA scorecards, the majority of active managers underperform most of the time, especially across the long-term time horizon. Is outperformance luck or skill? Stay tuned for the upcoming Latin America Persistence Scorecard.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

S&P Global Clean Energy Index Expands

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Ari Rajendra

Senior Director, Head of Thematic Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

Following a public consultation that concluded in March this year, S&P DJI announced the new composition of the S&P Global Clean Energy Index, which currently comprises 30 leading clean energy-related stocks, on April 2, 2021. The index is set to broaden when changes take effect on April 19, 2021.

Clean energy is an area that has garnered much investor attention over the past year, fueled in part by falling prices of renewables and growing momentum for carbon neutrality. As the global clean energy sector evolves, the S&P DJI Index Committee aims to have a benchmark that reflects the changing opportunity set.

Methodology Changes Lead to the Introduction of 51 New Stocks1

The index will now aim to add all stocks with the purest clean energy exposure (exposure score of 1) without any limit on target number of companies. If there are fewer than 100 eligible stocks, then companies with lower exposure scores are added (up to 100) without breaching a defined dilution threshold.2

Despite an increase in constituent count, there was a slight decrease in the index’s weighted average exposure score (see Exhibit 1). The expectation of a sizeable reduction in volatility could help improve its risk/return profile as the theme continues to take shape in the years to come.3

Higher Liquidity

The consultation proposal outlined the goal to reduce constituent concentration, ease liquidity limitation, and improve index replication. The forthcoming changes seek to address these objectives in several ways, including increasing constituent count and introducing a liquidity weight multiple cap.4 Our analysis5 confirms notable improvements.

Exhibit 3 compares the liquidity profile for current and pro-forma compositions, as determined by the individual stock members. The maximum index liquidity is typically determined by identifying the constraining constituent.6 This may not necessarily be the least liquid stock, as the stock weight plays a role too. As shown, the capacity available to trade 90% of the index increases by six times. A similar magnitude of improvement is observed for trading 100% of the index (USD 333 million versus USD 51 million).

Stock ownership7 is another meaningful measure from an index replication standpoint. Our assessment based on a hypothetical USD 15 billion index portfolio reveals a significant reduction in concentrated ownership (see Exhibit 4), further attesting to the merit of the changes.

Elevated Trading Volumes Could Provide Liquidity for the Rebalance

While the changes are positive, they will result in a degree of turnover. Our estimates indicate that the one-way turnover is likely to be about 55%.

That said, larger rebalance events are typically preceded by an increase in trading activity. To investigate this, we compared the average daily stock liquidity for the six-month period prior to the consultation announcement (six-month ADV) to the volumes since April 2, 2021.5 Exhibit 5 confirms a sharp rise in trading activity for stocks with high days to trade (based on a hypothetical USD 15 billion portfolio and six-month ADV). If volumes remain elevated, the impact of the rebalance may well be attenuated.

What’s Next?

During the March 2021 consultation, the Index Committee also proposed to include emerging markets-listed stocks6 and expanding the clean energy business definition to include other eligible segments (e.g., energy storage companies). As these proposals were not intended for implementation in April 2021, S&P DJI intends to publish an additional consultation upon the completion of the upcoming rebalance. S&P DJI continues to monitor and seek feedback to ensure that the S&P Global Clean Energy Index appropriately meets its objective as this segment continues to evolve and develop.


1 Full details of the methodology changes can be found here.

2 Dilution threshold is defined by the index weighted average exposure score, which is set to 0.85.

3 Brzenk, Phillip. “Why Clean Energy Now.” Indexology® Blog. Feb. 2, 2021.

4 Liquidity weight multiple cap is an additional cap imposed to ensure that a stock’s representation is in line with its liquidity. This cap is set at five times. Liquidity Weight Multiple Cap = Multiple*(Stock Liquidity/Aggregate Liquidity of all Stocks)

5 Based on daily tradable liquidity and ownership concentration.

6 Stock implied index liquidity is calculated for each stock in the index by dividing stock daily turnover by stock weight. The stock that implies the smallest value (constraining stock) determines the maximum index liquidity. For daily turnover, we assume 20% participation.

7 Measured by dividing the U.S. dollar notional held in any stock by its total market capitalization.

8 A hypothetical composition was released on March 12, 2021, as part of the S&P Global Clean Energy Index Consultation (based on October 2020 rebalance reference data).

9 Emerging markets stocks listed on developed exchanges are currently included.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Renewable Diesel Feedstock – Green Fuel and Affordable Food Part 2

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Fiona Boal

Managing Director, Global Head of Equities

S&P Dow Jones Indices

As market participants increasingly incorporate ESG metrics into all aspects of investing, it is inevitable that commodities investing would collide with ESG. The search for low-carbon fuel feedstocks from renewable sources to meet the demand for green energy is one area where the commodity-ESG conundrum is already apparent. In part 1 of our blog, we introduced renewable diesel feedstock. In this edition, we’ll continue our discussion and how it relates to ESG.

Government mandates, incentives, and standards to lower the carbon intensity of fuel combined with consumer demands for meaningful action on climate change has accelerated the demand for renewable diesel feedstocks. Refiners can produce renewable diesel from animal fats, plant oils, and used cooking oil, but in North America renewable diesel producers will increasingly be relying on soybean and canola oil to run new plants. A renewable diesel boom may have a profound impact on the agricultural sector by swelling demand for oilseeds like soybeans and canola that compete with other crops for finite planting area and affecting food prices.

Rising food prices may be a concern if the predicted demand for crops to generate renewable diesel materializes. Some industry participants have suggested that U.S. renewable diesel production could generate an extra 500 million pounds of demand for soybean oil in 2021, which would represent a 2% year-over-year increase in total consumption.

The food versus fuel dilemma is not new. The corn industry went through a similar structural shift in 2005 with the introduction of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), while sugar has been used as a feedstock for ethanol for decades in countries such as Brazil. While there is little academic evidence to suggest that corn demand from ethanol has structurally increased food prices (on average corn makes up a small percentage of final food expenses), the case with edible oils may be different given that they make up a larger percentage of final food expenses, especially in developing countries.

The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) measures the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities. Exhibit 1 illustrates the volatility of the basket and its sub-sectors over time. While the FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index reached its highest level since April 2012 in February 2021, this price appreciation should be viewed in the context of higher food prices across the board driven by a combination of disrupted supply chains in the wake of COVID-19, restocking demand, weather-driven supply issues, and higher energy prices.

While renewable diesel from recycled fuels may be a more sustainable and food-price friendly alternative, the transition to lower-carbon-intensity fuels will almost certainly involve increased demand for animal and vegetable oils.

For more information on SPDJI’s commodities indices, visit and be sure to check back as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the S&P GSCI.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

S&P BSE SENSEX Indices Reach All-Time Highs in Q1 2021

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Ved Malla

Associate Director, Client Coverage

S&P Dow Jones Indices

The S&P BSE SENSEX Index Series comprises three indices, namely the S&P BSE SENSEX, the S&P BSE SENSEX 50, and the S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50. The S&P BSE SENSEX is the oldest and most tracked index in India and comprises the 30 largest, most liquid, and financially sound companies in the S&P BSE 100. The S&P BSE SENSEX 50 is designed to measure the 50 largest and most liquid companies in the S&P BSE 100. Meanwhile, the S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 is designed to measure the next 50 largest and most liquid companies in the S&P BSE 100 that are not members of the S&P BSE SENSEX 50.

In this blog, we will compare the returns of the S&P BSE SENSEX, the S&P BSE SENSEX 50, and the S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 for the first quarter of 2021.

In Exhibit 1, we see that for the period ending March 31, 2021, the absolute returns of the S&P BSE SENSEX, S&P BSE SENSEX 50, and S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 were 3.85%, 5.21%, and 8.35%, respectively.

In Exhibit 2, we see the total return index levels of the S&P BSE SENSEX, the S&P BSE SENSEX 50, and the S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50. The S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 consistently outperformed the S&P BSE SENSEX and S&P BSE SENSEX 50 during the first quarter of 2021, despite the high market volatility during this period.

Furthermore, Exhibit 3 shows us that all three indices had their all-time highs in the first quarter of 2021.

To summarize, we can say that the S&P BSE SENSEX Index Series showed promising returns in Q1 2021; despite the increased volatility, all three indices reached all-time highs during this period.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.