The macro view
In this column, I recently mentioned that the number of company managements that had mentioned the fiscal cliff during calls with investors had skyrocketed in the third-quarter earnings season. Today, I came across this biting comment in my Twitter feed:
A CEO who complains about uncertainty is like a fish who complains about being wet. bit.ly/UYR8Xw— Chris Dillow (@CJFDillow) November 28, 2012
While executives may find uncertainty linked to the fiscal cliff paralyzing, it is clearly spurring them to action in one area, with a record number of companies announcing special dividends. According to Markit, 103 companies have announced they will pay a special dividend before the end of the year, compared with a fourth-quarter average of just 31 since 2005. Dividends have been taxed at 15% since the 2003 Bush tax cuts; that rate could spike to 40% next year.
Not surprisingly, companies with high insider-ownership, such as Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), appear to be particularly enthusiastic to return money to shareholders this way. I believe this a positive example of a proper alignment between insider and shareholder interests. The technology sector is well-represented by companies with high net cash balances that should consider doing the same thing, including Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Dividends are powerful wealth-builders: Click here to find out the "3 Stocks Dividend Investors Need."
Alex Dumortier, CFA has no positions in the stocks mentioned above; you can follow him @longrunreturns. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.