In a year of so much uncertainty, having a bit of surety about your investments is a luxury.

The S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats — stocks of 65 companies that have increased their dividends for at least 25 years — have been solid, in that none of them have cut their payouts.

You might be thinking: Isn’t that what they are supposed to do? Yes. But if you look at the components of the benchmark S&P 500 Index US:SPX, 63 companies have cut or suspended their dividends this year. That’s 14% of the non-Aristocrats. They are listed below, and the year-to-date returns are ugly. Of 63 dividend cutters, 56 have suffered double-digit declines (with dividends reinvested), and 49 are down at least 20%.

Among the 65 components of the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index XX:SP50DIV, gainers and decliners are pretty much evenly split for 2020, with 33 showing positive returns through Aug. 21.

The entire  S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index is down 2.4% this year, which may seem a poor showing against the 6.5% return for the broader S&P 500 Index. However, large technology companies that dominate the benchmark index have had an outsized effect on its market-capitalization-weighted performance.

In the U.S. financial media, “big tech” pretty much means the FAANG stocks and Microsoft Corp. US:MSFT. This group is on fire this year and carries a tremendous weighting in the S&P 500, but only two of them are in the information technology sector, as defined by S&P Dow Jones Indices:

Company Ticker Total return – 2020 Market capitalization ($ billion)
Facebook Inc. Class A US:FB 30% $642
Apple Inc. US:AAPL 71% $2,127
Amazon.com Inc. US:AMZN 78% $1,645
Netflix Inc. US:NFLX 52% $217
Alphabet Inc. Class C US:GOOG 18% $527
Alphabet Inc. Class A US:GOOGL 18% $473
Microsoft Corp. US:MSFT 36% $1,612
Source: FactSet

Together, the FAANG + Microsoft group’s combined $7.24 trillion in market capitalization makes up 25.8% of the cap-weighted S&P 500. So, no, your index fund is not as diversified as you may think.

So it’s no surprise that the tech-heavy S&P 500 has been outperforming the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats for many years. But if you look back 15 years, the story changes:

Over 15 years, the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index has beaten the performance of the full S&P 500 Index.

FactSet

One way to invest in the entire Aristocrats group is the ProShares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats US:NOBL.

The Dividend Aristocrats list

An S&P 500 stock is considered a Dividend Aristocrat if it has raised its dividend payout on common shares for at least 25 consecutive years. It makes no difference how high a stock’s current dividend yield might be. S&P Dow Jones Indices will include a newly formed company as a Dividend Aristocrat if it was formed through a merger that included a company that was already an Aristocrat and it continues raising its dividend.

Here are all 65 S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats, sorted by current yield, with total returns for 2020 through Aug. 21 (scroll the table to the right to see the yields and returns):

Company Ticker Industry Dividend yield Total return – 2020
Exxon Mobil Corp. US:XOM Integrated Oil 8.49% -38%
AT&T Inc. US:T Telecommunications 7.01% -20%
People’s United Financial Inc. US:PBCT Banks 6.89% -36%
Chevron Corp. US:CVX Integrated Oil 6.06% -27%
Federal Realty Investment Trust US:FRT Real Estate Investment Trusts 5.28% -36%
Franklin Resources Inc. US:BEN Investment Managers 5.15% -17%
AbbVie Inc. US:ABBV Pharmaceuticals: Major 4.98% 11%
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. US:WBA Drugstore Chains 4.74% -31%
Realty Income Corp. US:O Real Estate Investment Trusts 4.58% -15%
Consolidated Edison Inc. US:ED Electric Utilities 4.24% -18%
Amcor PLC US:AMCR Containers/Packaging 4.14% 5%
Leggett & Platt Inc. US:LEG Home Furnishings 4.02% -20%
Essex Property Trust Inc. US:ESS Real Estate Investment Trusts 3.90% -28%
Cardinal Health Inc. US:CAH Medical Distributors 3.90% 0%
3M Co. US:MMM Industrial Conglomerates 3.64% -6%
Nucor Corp. US:NUE Steel 3.60% -19%
Coca-Cola Co. US:KO Beverages: Non-Alcoholic 3.47% -13%
Genuine Parts Co. US:GPC Wholesale Distributors 3.39% -11%
Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. US:ADM Agricultural Commodities/Milling 3.30% -3%
Raytheon Technologies Corp. US:RTX Aerospace & Defense 3.15% -30%
Sysco Corp. US:SYY Food Distributors 3.13% -31%
V.F. Corp. US:VFC Apparel/Footwear 3.11% -37%
Cincinnati Financial Corp. US:CINF Property/Casualty Insurance 3.10% -25%
Aflac Inc. US:AFL Life/Health Insurance 3.08% -30%
PepsiCo Inc. US:PEP Beverages: Non-Alcoholic 3.00% 1%
Caterpillar Inc. US:CAT Trucks/Construction/Farm Machinery 2.98% -4%
Emerson Electric Co. US:EMR Electrical Products 2.95% -9%
General Dynamics Corp. US:GD Aerospace & Defense 2.94% -13%
Kimberly-Clark Corp. US:KMB Household/Personal Care 2.72% 16%
T. Rowe Price Group US:TROW Investment Managers 2.67% 12%
Johnson & Johnson US:JNJ Pharmaceuticals: Major 2.64% 6%
Automatic Data Processing Inc. US:ADP Data Processing Services 2.64% -18%
Chubb Limited US:CB Property/Casualty Insurance 2.56% -21%
McDonald’s Corp. US:MCD Restaurants 2.36% 8%
Medtronic PLC US:MDT Medical Specialties 2.35% -12%
Illinois Tool Works Inc. US:ITW Industrial Machinery 2.34% 10%
Procter & Gamble Co. US:PG Household/Personal Care 2.30% 12%
Atmos Energy Corp. US:ATO Gas Distributors 2.28% -8%
Colgate-Palmolive Co. US:CL Household/Personal Care 2.24% 16%
Clorox Co. US:CLX Household/Personal Care 1.96% 50%
A. O. Smith Corp. US:AOS Building Products 1.96% 4%
Air Products and Chemicals Inc. US:APD Chemicals: Specialty 1.87% 23%
PPG Industries Inc. US:PPG Industrial Specialties 1.83% -10%
Dover Corp. US:DOV Oilfield Services/Equipment 1.80% -4%
Target Corp. US:TGT Specialty Stores 1.77% 22%
Hormel Foods Corp. US:HRL Food: Meat/Fish/Dairy 1.77% 19%
Stanley Black & Decker Inc. US:SWK Tools & Hardware 1.76% -3%
W.W. Grainger Inc. US:GWW Wholesale Distributors 1.74% 6%
Albemarle Corp. US:ALB Chemicals: Specialty 1.72% 24%
Pentair PLC US:PNR Miscellaneous Manufacturing 1.65% 2%
Walmart Inc. US:WMT Food Retail 1.64% 12%
Linde PLC US:LIN Chemicals: Specialty 1.58% 16%
Abbott Laboratories US:ABT Medical Specialties 1.41% 19%
Lowe’s Cos. Inc. US:LOW Home Improvement Chains 1.36% 37%
Otis Worldwide Corp. US:OTIS Building Products 1.26% N/A
Becton, Dickinson and Co. US:BDX Medical Specialties 1.23% -5%
McCormick & Co. Inc. US:MKC Food: Specialty/Candy 1.22% 21%
Expeditors International of Washington Inc. US:EXPD Air Freight/Couriers 1.21% 11%
Carrier Global Corp. US:CARR Industrial Machinery 1.08% N/A
Brown-Forman Corp. Class B US:BF Beverages: Alcoholic 0.97% 7%
Ecolab Inc. US:ECL Chemicals: Specialty 0.96% 1%
Cintas Corp. US:CTAS Other Consumer Services 0.80% 19%
Sherwin-Williams Co. US:SHW Industrial Specialties 0.79% 17%
S&P Global Inc. US:SPGI Financial Publishing/Services 0.74% 33%
Roper Technologies Inc. US:ROP Electronic Equipment/Instruments 0.47% 22%
Source: FactSet

You can click on the tickers for more about each company.

Despite no dividend cuts among the group this year, they are a possibility. For example, Exxon Mobil Corp. US:XOM decided in April to leave its quarterly dividend (paid in May) unchanged, when it traditionally raises the dividend at that time each year. Unless the company makes a move later this year, it will not longer be an Aristocrat.

Dividend cuts for Exxon and Chevron Corp. US:CVX have traditionally seemed “virtually unthinkable,” as Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov said in March. Sure enough, Exxon has shown a real commitment to maintaining the current payout by taking drastic measures to preserve cash during the extended period of low fuel demand. These measures include a suspension of matching 401(k) contributions for its employees.

So you need to do your own research before considering a Dividend Aristocrat, or any other company, for investment.

Dividend cutters

Here are all 63 companies among the S&P 500 that have suspended or lowered their dividend payments this year. This list is sorted by ascending total returns. Current dividend yields are included:

Company Ticker Total return – 2020 Dividend yield
Carnival Corp. US:CCL -71% 0.00%
Occidental Petroleum Corp. US:OXY -66% 0.30%
Coty Inc. Class A US:COTY -66% 0.00%
TechnipFMC PLC US:FTI -64% 1.74%
Nordstrom Inc. US:JWN -64% 0.00%
Kohl’s Corp. US:KSS -61% 0.00%
Macy’s Inc. US:M -61% 0.00%
Marathon Oil Corp. US:MRO -61% 0.00%
Alliance Data Systems Corp. US:ADS -61% 1.94%
Helmerich & Payne Inc. US:HP -60% 5.92%
Noble Energy Inc. US:NBL -59% 0.80%
American Airlines Group Inc. US:AAL -57% 0.00%
Simon Property Group Inc. US:SPG -55% 8.06%
Wells Fargo & Co. US:WFC -55% 1.69%
Royal Caribbean Group US:RCL -53% 0.00%
Delta Air Lines Inc. US:DAL -53% 0.00%
Schlumberger NV US:SLB -53% 2.69%
National Oilwell Varco Inc. US:NOV -53% 0.00%
PVH Corp. US:PVH -52% 0.00%
DXC Technology Co. US:DXC -50% 0.00%
Boeing Co. US:BA -48% 0.00%
Alaska Air Group Inc. US:ALK -47% 0.00%
Western Digital Corp. US:WDC -46% 0.00%
Tapestry Inc. US:TPR -45% 0.00%
Vornado Realty Trust US:VNO -44% 5.98%
Apache Corp. US:APA -44% 0.70%
Kimco Realty Corp. US:KIM -43% 0.00%
Ralph Lauren Corp. Class A US:RL -42% 0.00%
Host Hotels & Resorts Inc. US:HST -42% 0.00%
Invesco Ltd. US:IVZ -41% 6.11%
Wynn Resorts Ltd. US:WYNN -40% 0.00%
Capital One Financial Corp. US:COF -37% 0.63%
Marriott International Inc. Class A US:MAR -37% 0.00%
MGM Resorts International US:MGM -36% 0.05%
Southwest Airlines Co. US:LUV -35% 0.00%
Halliburton Co. US:HAL -35% 1.14%
WestRock Co. US:WRK -32% 2.81%
Molson Coors Beverage Co. Class B US:TAP -31% 0.00%
Welltower Inc. US:WELL -29% 4.35%
Las Vegas Sands Corp. US:LVS -28% 0.00%
Ford Motor Co. US:F -27% 0.00%
CenterPoint Energy Inc. US:CNP -25% 3.03%
Ventas Inc. US:VTR -25% 4.32%
Ross Stores Inc. US:ROST -25% 0.00%
Harley-Davidson Inc. US:HOG -25% 0.29%
Universal Health Services Inc. Class B US:UHS -24% 0.00%
Darden Restaurants Inc. US:DRI -24% 0.00%
Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. US:HLT -21% 0.00%
General Motors Co. US:GM -21% 0.00%
Gap Inc. US:GPS -17% 0.00%
Expedia Group Inc. US:EXPE -15% 0.00%
TJX Cos. US:TJX -15% 0.00%
CME Group Inc. Class A US:CME -13% 1.96%
Walt Disney Co. US:DIS -12% 0.00%
Aptiv PLC US:APTV -11% 0.00%
HCA Healthcare Inc. US:HCA -10% 0.00%
Weyerhaeuser Co. US:WY -3% 0.00%
Estee Lauder Cos. Inc. Class A US:EL 0% 0.93%
Freeport-McMoRan Inc. US:FCX 10% 0.00%
Maxim Integrated Products Inc. US:MXIM 13% 0.00%
Progressive Corp. US:PGR 31% 0.44%
Rollins Inc. US:ROL 67% 0.58%
L Brands Inc. US:LB 68% 0.00%
Source: FactSet
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