Investors considering a position in the Consumer Discretionary sector need to be aware of what they are buying: a basket in which one-half consists of mature, modestly-valued consumer brands, while the other half is two mega caps with excellent growth profiles and high absolute valuations. It would be a mistake to view this sector as a homogeneous set of companies.
Cap-weighted valuations for the S&P 500 and S&P Industrials are homing in on the all-time records seen in the first quarter of 2000. We’ll confess that after those valuations collapsed in the years that followed, we thought we’d never see them again in our lifetime—let alone a mere generation later.
Dividends are a cornerstone of equity investing and, over the decades, they have produced a significant portion of the stock market’s total return. Previous Leuthold research has identified a strong dividend influence on total returns for small and mid-caps; a client recently asked if we found the same effect in the universe of S&P 500 companies. Specifically, have S&P 500 dividend-payers outperformed non-payers, and, second, have dividend growers outperformed non-growers?