Investors ended 2013 on a happy note as far as dividends go, and experts anticipate payments may improve this year as well. S&P Dow Jones Indices said Monday that dividend net increases, which measures increases less decreases, rose $12.7 billion during the fourth quarter of 2013 for U.S. common stock. That is compared to an $8.4 billion increase in the fourth quarter of 2012. There were 885 dividend increases during the quarter, according to financial research firm. That is down from 1,266 in 2012 when a number of companies made last-minute increases to dividends ahead of anticipated tax rate hikes on dividend gains due to the fiscal cliff. But it's up from 36 percent from the 649 companies that raised dividends in 2011. There were 51 dividend decreases in the fourth quarter. For the full year, there were 2,895 dividend rate increases, up from 2,887 in 2012 and 1,953 in 2011. There were 299 dividend decreases, compared with 275 in 2012 and 101 in 2011. "Dividends had a great year," Howard Silverblatt , senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement. "At this point, we expect (the first quarter) to be a very busy positive period for dividends, with 2014 setting another record for payments." Silverblatt said low payout ratios, record earnings and strong cash levels should permit companies to continue to grow dividends.
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