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Market View

Stimulus measures from central banks around the world potentially could benefit shares of dividend-paying, non-U.S. companies.

Investors in dividend-paying stocks from U.S. companies have benefited over the past five years, as easy money policy (including three rounds of quantitative easing) from the U.S. Federal Reserve helped spark a long-lasting equity rally. But what about the rest of the world?

The international stock market (as represented by the MSCI EAFE Index) has lagged the U.S. market during that interval. The EAFE Index has yet to return to the levels seen prior to 2008, while the U.S. market (as represented by the S&P 500® Index) has far surpassed its prior levels (see Chart 1). The introduction of additional stimulus measures by the European Central Bank and other central banks eventually could spark the growth that many have long waited to happen. With this new round of pump-priming, could investors in international dividend-payers see a similar opportunity to the one their U.S. counterparts found five-plus years ago?

 

Chart 1. International Stock Prices Have Yet to Recover from Pre-2008 Levels
Price return on indicated indexes, as of November 25, 2014

Source: Morningstar.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The historical data are for illustrative purposes only, do not represent the performance of any Lord Abbett mutual fund or any particular investment, and are not intended to predict or depict future results. Indexes are unmanaged, do not reflect the deduction of fees or expenses, and are not available for direct investment. Investors may experience different results. Due to market volatility, the market may not perform in a similar manner in the future.
Investing in international securities generally poses greater risk than investing in domestic securities, including greater price fluctuations and higher transaction costs. Special risks are inherent to international investing, including those related to currency fluctuations and foreign, political, and economic events. Companies cannot assure or guarantee a certain rate of return or dividend yield; they can increase, decrease, or totally eliminate their dividends without notice. Please see below for information regarding the economic indicator data in these charts and index information.

 

The jury, however, is out on that particular question. But even if very slow growth persists in Europe and other areas outside the United States, there still could be select areas of opportunity for dividend investors. 

What are the signals investors should be watching? Currently, yields on major international equities are higher than nearly all of their underlying countries’ government bond yields (see Chart 2). In other words, an international stock portfolio might very well yield more than an international sovereign bond portfolio. As many investors use bonds for both income and stability, equity investors considering a similar approach may find it useful to narrow their strategic focus to stable companies with attractive dividend yields. 

For instance, there are 748 stocks in the world with a current dividend yield greater than 4% and a market cap greater than $1.5 billion, according to data from FactSet as of November 15, 2014. Nearly 77% of these 748 stocks are located outside the United States. Many of these are stocks of large, multi-national companies with global footprints, and with a relatively low degree of exposure to their soft home economies. 

 

Chart 2. Yields on Dividend-Paying Non-U.S. Stocks Recently Exceeded Those of Most Countries’ Government Bonds
Yields on indicated categories, as of November 25, 2014

Source: Bloomberg.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The historical data are for illustrative purposes only, do not represent the performance of any Lord Abbett mutual fund or any particular investment, and are not intended to predict or depict future results. Indexes are unmanaged, do not reflect the deduction of fees or expenses, and are not available for direct investment. Investors may experience different results. Due to market volatility, the market may not perform in a similar manner in the future.
Investing in international securities generally poses greater risk than investing in domestic securities, including greater price fluctuations and higher transaction costs. Special risks are inherent to international investing, including those related to currency fluctuations and foreign, political, and economic events. Companies cannot assure or guarantee a certain rate of return or dividend yield; they can increase, decrease, or totally eliminate their dividends without notice.

 

It is worth noting that valuations on large, stable, non-U.S. companies with high-dividend stocks appear attractive. In fact, 34 of the international high-dividend-paying stocks from the group above have a dividend yield greater than their price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio.

What, then, would be a good approach to potential opportunities in international dividend stocks? One way might be to turn to professional management. “We are investing in undervalued stocks that also carry relatively high dividend yields,” said Vincent McBride, Lord Abbett Partner & Director of International Equity. “And we have the flexibility to invest across small-, mid-, and large-cap companies as well as in emerging markets and developed markets for optimal diversification.” 

Accordingly, the international dividend and value-focused strategy that McBride runs has a portfolio of 87 stocks with an average forward 12-month P/E ratio of 11.9 (as of September 30, 2014). Of those 87 companies, 64 also have corporate debt outstanding. And among that group, 58 (or 91%) have a dividend yield on their common stock greater than the corresponding yield on their corporate bondsOn average, their dividend yields are 2.28% higher than their corporate bond yields and 2.97% higher than their home countries’ 10-year sovereign bonds. 

In a low-yield and slow-growth world, international equity and dividend investing appears to offer investors opportunity for income and returns at attractive valuations. 

 

MARKET VIEW PDFs


  Market View
  U.S. Market Monitor

A WORLD OF DIVIDEND POSSIBILITIES
The Lord Abbett International Dividend Income mutual fund invests primarily in stocks of dividend-paying international companies. View performance.

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