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Introducing the First Global Voluntary Carbon Market Index

The S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Index Series: One Year Later

Simplicity Yields Outperformance: The S&P 500 Low Volatility High Dividend Index

Data Driving the Weights within the S&P 500 Net Zero 2050 Paris-Aligned ESG Index

Combining Dividend Strategies

Introducing the First Global Voluntary Carbon Market Index

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Jim Wiederhold

Associate Director, Commodities and Real Assets

S&P Dow Jones Indices

The S&P GSCI Global Voluntary Carbon Liquidity Weighted is the first-to-market benchmark for the current performance of global voluntary carbon futures markets. The index is designed to track the CBL Nature-Based Global Emissions Offset (NGO) futures, underpinned by the Verified Carbon Standard registry, and the CBL Global Emissions Offset (GEO) futures, allowing delivery from CORSIA-eligible carbon offset credits from all three major registries (see Exhibit 1). Both futures contracts are traded at the CME Group. In contrast to compliant markets like the EU Allowances, voluntary carbon markets are not government mandated but go through stringent verification and validation channels to ensure underlying projects have an impact—whether that be reforestation, avoided deforestation, renewable energy, or carbon capture, among others.

The underlying futures contracts from the CME Group are some of the newest offerings in the carbon market. The speed with which liquidity has built in these contracts and the growth in issuance (and retirement) activity indicates a strong appetite for voluntary offset credits by the private sector (see Exhibit 2). A key instrument in the world’s ability to combat climate change and accomplish the energy transition from fossil fuels to electrification, the voluntary carbon marketplace will likely continue to gain importance while providing price discovery and ease of transacting for many market participants who want to verify their reduction of tons of CO2 equivalent.

This index may be of interest because market participants can see the price appreciation potential, or they would like to hedge their climate risk exposures. Due to the evolving nature of carbon markets, an important characteristic of the index is the flexibility to reweight, add or remove constituents at regular intervals to ensure that it can adapt over time.

Constituents in the index are weighted semiannually based on their current underlying liquidity. Minimum contract trading and liquidity rules for constituent inclusion, similar in design to the eligibility criteria used for the broad S&P GSCI, are also applied. Exhibit 3 highlights some of the important characteristics of the S&P Global Voluntary Carbon Liquidity Weighted Index.

This new index demonstrates S&P DJI’s continued efforts to provide innovative and new thematic alternative benchmarks in the commodities space. This theme offers exposure to the energy transition. With other major asset classes suffering heavy losses in the first half of 2022, the diversification benefits of alternatives have never been more apparent. For more information, visit our commodities investment theme page and check out S&P Global Commodity Insights’ energy transition resources.

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

The S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Index Series: One Year Later

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Luca Ramotti

Senior Analyst, Strategy Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

Dividends have historically provided a significant source of returns.  A recent blog stated dividends have become an important source of household income for U.S. investors and accounted for 7.3% of personal income as of Q1 2022, climbing from 3.2% in 1980. Over the same period, interest income has declined in share from 16.2% to 9.2%. In the current environment of rising inflation and interest rates, dividends may also provide the benefit as an inflation hedge.

One year ago, S&P DJI expanded its S&P Dividend Aristocrats® (DA) Indices with a new index series focusing on both dividends and ESG, targeting companies that couple consistent dividend growth with minimum ESG standards.1 Despite offering an additional layer of sustainability, the newly launched S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats (ESG DA) Index Series have historically been able to offer low tracking error and a dividend yield comparable to those of the historical non-ESG version.

With one year of live history, we review the performance and characteristics of the S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Index Series.

Similar Performance and Low Tracking Error

2021 was challenging for stock markets globally, with the return of central banks tightening globally and rising inflation after years of declining yields. Nonetheless, the S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Index Series managed to ride this period delivering similar and often better performance compared to its non-ESG counterparts. Furthermore, despite some market headwinds, the S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Indices increased their dividend yield over the past 12 months, further emphasizing the resilience of such strategies.

Increasing Dividend Yield

Exhibit 2 shows the realized trailing 12-month dividend yield for the S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Indices against their respective S&P Dividend Aristocrats Indices and broad benchmark indices. Over the past 12 months, the S&P Dividend Aristocrats Index Series offered comparable dividend yields and delivered a sizable yield pick-up compared with the benchmark.

Exhibit 3 shows the difference between the trailing 12-month dividend yield from May 31, 2021, to May 31, 2022. Interestingly, the S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Indices’ dividend yield increased over the course of the past 12 months, not only in absolute terms but also compared with the standard S&P Dividend Aristocrats versions. Although the yield was still lower, the spread has been tightening. The current market dynamics may be driving these fluctuations in yield spreads. However, it is worth noting that with additional screens applied to the ESG versions of Dividend Aristocrats, yields of the S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Indices could remain at a discount to their non-ESG counterparts.

Underweight Utilities

In terms of sector representation, the results were quite mixed, with different S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Indices overweighting different sectors (see Exhibit 4). However, one common trait is that the Utilities sector was systematically underrepresented. The reason for the Utilities underweight may lie in the index methodology, which excludes companies involved in thermal coal, among others. Compared with 2021, we didn’t identify any major trends in sector weights that remained broadly similar in both versions.

Improvement in S&P DJI ESG Score

The S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Indices delivered an improvement in the S&P DJI ESG Scores, averaging at 16%. Improvements were quite pronounced for the U.S, developed markets and global indices. In eurozone, the impact of the ESG screens and filter was lower, but this can be explained by the non-ESG version already having a high S&P DJI ESG Score. Furthermore, we noticed a general improvement in the S&P DJI ESG Scores since the launch of the index, except for the eurozone, where the score remained consistently high.

One year after their launch, the S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Index Series succeeded in providing similar performance and dividend yield, while keeping an eye on sustainability, and the series has recently expanded with the launch of the S&P 500 ESG Dividend Aristocrats Index.

The S&P ESG Dividend Aristocrats Index Series is designed to identify companies that combine consistent dividend growth with sustainability characteristics, providing an additional option for long-term, income-focused investors that are looking for high quality, dividend-paying companies with sustainable business models.

 

1 For a more in-depth look into this index series, see https://www.spglobal.com/spdji/en/education/article/aligning-income-with-esg-the-sp-esg-dividend-aristocrats/.

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

Simplicity Yields Outperformance: The S&P 500 Low Volatility High Dividend Index

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Rupert Watts

Senior Director, Strategy Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

Last week, the S&P 500® officially entered a bear market, dropping more than 20% from its record close in January. However, not all equity indices suffered comparable losses, and one such example is the S&P 500 Low Volatility High Dividend Index. In fact, this index has outperformed by a wide margin so far in 2022.

This may come as no surprise since this index combines two strategies that have individually beaten the S&P 500 YTD. High dividend strategies have been popular in the recent market environment of high inflation and rising interest rates, where current income and shorter duration stocks are considered more favorable by some investors. Similarly, low volatility stocks have outperformed due to their defensive qualities during increased market uncertainty.

Methodology

This index applies a simple, two-step constituent screening methodology to capture the benefit of high dividend and low volatility strategies. First, the index selects the top 75 highest-yielding stocks in the S&P 500 based on their 12-month trailing dividend yield. Then, it narrows those down to the 50 stocks with the lowest realized volatility over the past 252 trading days. The remaining stocks are then weighted by the trailing 12-month dividend yield.

The index has delivered higher absolute and risk-adjusted returns than the S&P 500 since January 1990. Furthermore, it has had a lower downside capture ratio than similar high-yielding strategies since the low volatility screen acts as a quality measure to avoid high-yield stocks with sharp price drops.

Construction Philosophy

This index was built on the premise that high-yielding stocks tend to outperform the broad market in the long run. Our research team published a paper in 2019 showing just that. However, it also showed that this outperformance came at the cost of higher volatility and lower risk-adjusted returns.

The paper went on to argue that this high volatility could be attributed to the inclusion of high-yield stocks with a depressed price. Furthermore, it offered a potential remedy: a low volatility screen to help avoid high-risk companies.

This is amply demonstrated in Exhibit 3, which shows the performance of the following three hypothetical portfolios that are equally weighted.

  1. High-yield portfolio: 75 stocks from the S&P 500 with the highest dividend yield
  2. Low volatility/high-yield portfolio: 50 lowest volatility stocks selected from the high-yield portfolio
  3. High volatility/high-yield portfolio: 25 highest volatility stocks selected from the high-yield portfolio

Since January 1990, the high-yield portfolio outperformed the S&P 500 by 1.4% annualized, but with higher volatility and a larger maximum drawdown. The low volatility/high-yield portfolio achieved a similar annualized return, but with 14.4% less volatility and a smaller maximum drawdown.

Finally, the high volatility/high-yield portfolio was much more volatile, with the lowest risk-adjusted return and largest maximum drawdown. Thus, out of these three hypothetical portfolios, the low volatility/high-yield portfolio delivered the highest risk-adjusted return and had the most pronounced maximum drawdown reduction.

Conclusion

For market participants looking for outperformance and a competitive yield with lower risk than other comparable high-yielding strategies, the S&P 500 Low Volatility High Dividend Index might be a worthy consideration.

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

Data Driving the Weights within the S&P 500 Net Zero 2050 Paris-Aligned ESG Index

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Barbara Velado

Senior Analyst, Research & Design, ESG Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

The World Meteorological Organization estimates that there is a 50% chance that global warming will exceed 1.5°C before 2026.1 The International Panel on Climate Change has warned that time is running out—climate change is no longer a problem for the future, and its associated physical risks are materializing more evidently.2 The world may need to rapidly decarbonize to prevent irreversible impacts. The S&P PACT™ Indices (S&P Paris-Aligned and Climate Transition Indices) are designed to select equity securities that collectively aim to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Here we dive into the power of data in driving the weights within the S&P 500® Net Zero 2050 Paris-Aligned ESG Index and let the underlying data speak for itself.

S&P Paris-Aligned Index Weights Explained

The S&P Paris-Aligned Indices start by excluding companies involved in undesirable business activities, and then the remaining constituents are reweighted based on their ESG and climate performance.3 This blog will focus on specific companies’ case studies to better illustrate this reweighting effect.

Climate and ESG Data Driving the Weights

Exhibit 2 highlights how the underlying climate and ESG metrics drive the weights allocated to some of the stocks within the S&P 500 Net Zero 2050 Paris-Aligned ESG Index. To provide transparency on a relative basis, we look at four pairs of companies within the same sub-industry and their percentage weight change relative to its underlying index, the S&P 500. Green colors depict relatively positive performance on a climate or ESG factor, while pink shades reflect weaker values.

McDonald’s and Domino’s, two of the largest names within the American restaurant industry, received different weights. Despite both having high exposure to physical risks, McDonald’s alignment with a 1.5°C carbon budget and stronger S&P DJI ESG Score helped the company to be overweighted by 46% compared with its underlying index. Conversely, Domino’s was allocated 0% weight due to being above its transition pathway budget, which is the climate factor responsible for the largest reweighting effect.4 Since only 32%5 of stocks within the underlying index are below their respective 1.5°C carbon budgets, significant reweightings are applied at the stock level for the overall index to be 1.5°C compatible.

Apple and HP show similar alignment to a 1.5°C trajectory on a forward-looking basis and comparable physical risk scores. HP’s stronger sustainability performance, as measured by its S&P DJI ESG Score, led to its overweight (99%), while Apple lost some of its ground (-29%). As the S&P 500 Net Zero 2050 Paris-Aligned ESG Index targets a 20% increase of index-level ESG score relative to the underlying index, the ESG score plays a large role within the reweighting effect. Incorporating the ESG score into this climate strategy allows for a more holistic ESG performance assessment than looking at climate factors in isolation.

Within Electric Utilities, Exelon was underweighted (-14%) due to its high physical risk score, indicating high sensitivity and exposure to physical risks. Along with consideration for transition risks, the S&P 500 Net Zero 2050 Paris-Aligned ESG Index also aims to mitigate physical risks to fully address climate risks at the index level, aligning with the TCFD recommendations.6 FirstEnergy, despite having lower green-to-brown revenue share, received a large overweight (263%) thanks to being below its 1.5°C carbon budget and lower physical risk score.

Lastly, within Specialty Chemicals, both Albemarle and PPG Industries were overweighted, albeit to different degrees. Despite being below its 1.5°C carbon budget and displaying a similar S&P DJI ESG Score to Albemarle, PPG Industries’ high physical risk score curbed its overweight to 21%, while its peer’s weight was boosted by 277%.

We aim to provide transparency on how the S&P PACT Indices constituents’ weights are determined by their climate and ESG performance. Coupled with the 7% year-on-year self-decarbonization pathway, the S&P PACT Indices seek to offer an efficient and multifaceted solution for investment product providers to align investments with a net-zero journey.

 

 

1 According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Climate Update.

2 According to the contribution of IPCC’s Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report on Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

3 Please see the S&P Paris-Aligned and Climate Transition Indices Methodology for more information.

4 Leale-Green, B., Velado, B. (2020). Exploring S&P PACT Indices Weight Attribution.

5 As of March 31, 2022, 32% of constituents by index weight within the S&P 500 were under their carbon budget for 1.5°C climate scenario alignment.

6 Final Report: Recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (2017), available here.

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

Combining Dividend Strategies

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Craig Lazzara

Managing Director, Core Product Management

S&P Dow Jones Indices

Throughout this year’s market turmoil, dividend strategies have been among the most reliable sources of relative, if not absolute, performance. Through June 21, 2022, e.g., when the S&P 500® had declined -20.4% YTD, the S&P 500 High Dividend Index (roughly speaking, the 80 highest-yielding stocks in the 500) sustained a loss of only -3.7%. The S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats®, which focuses on dividend growth rather than absolute dividend levels, declined -14.0%—well behind its higher-yielding compatriot but still significantly ahead of the market as a whole.

We’ve commented before on the relative merits of dividend yield and dividend growth strategies, suggesting that their comparative performance is analogous to the shifting performance of value and growth. For nearly 15 years, as S&P 500 Growth dominated S&P 500 Value, the Dividend Aristocrats handily outperformed High Dividend. At the beginning of 2022, however, the tables turned: Value is trouncing Growth, and dividend yield is well ahead of dividend growth.

Lacking the ability to forecast the future relative performance of High Dividend and Dividend Aristocrats (or at least the ability to forecast it accurately), it’s natural to wonder about the results of combining the two strategies. Although the short-term advantage can shift between the two indices, in the long run the performance of High Dividend and Dividend Aristocrats has been comparable, and the correlation between their relative returns has typically been in the 0.6 to 0.7 range. This suggests that the indices’ co-movement, although reasonably strong, is not perfect, so that combining them might produce at least some diversification benefit. Exhibit 1 illustrates this with three sets of index combinations.

The gold curve illustrates combinations of the S&P 500 and the S&P 500 High Dividend Index. High Dividend has had both higher historical returns and higher risk than the 500, so the efficient frontier between them, after some initial curvature, moves upward and to the right, as all good efficient frontiers are wont to do.

The blue curve is more interesting; it shows combinations of the S&P 500 and the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats. Notice that this efficient frontier moves upward and to the left; Dividend Aristocrats historically has had higher returns and been less volatile than the S&P 500. It is, in other words, a member in good standing of the class of indices that benefit from the low volatility anomaly—the tendency of stocks with below-average volatility to outperform the market as a whole.

Most interesting of all is the green curve, which illustrates combinations of the Dividend Aristocrats and High Dividend indices. It’s interesting because it dominates both the efficient frontiers beneath it. Combinations of Dividend Aristocrats and High Dividend have provided more return for the same level of risk as combinations of either index singly with the S&P 500.

This finding implies that dividend-seeking investors need not feel pressured to choose between dividend levels and dividend growth. Combining the two strategies can potentially produce a more attractive risk/return profile than holding either in isolation.

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