A look at the dividend comeback, by the numbers

Dividend stocks and mutual funds that specialize in dividend-payers are enjoying a renaissance. It comes just three years after the financial crisis led many companies to conserve cash by cutting or eliminating dividends.

Below are statistics compiled by S&P Indices about dividends paid by companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. The figures are updated with this week’s news that Apple plans to initiate a dividend, as well as announcements last week by major banks that plan to increase dividends.

—Projected total 2012 dividend payout: $277 billion, up 15 percent from last year, breaking the previous record of $248 billion set in 2008

—2009 payout, a recent low: $196 billion

—Total cash of S&P 500 companies: More than $1 trillion — a record — as of last year’s fourth quarter.

—Ratio of companies’ dividend payouts to cash: 30 percent, compared with historic average of 52 percent

— Percentage of the S&P 500’s dividend-paying companies making higher payouts than they did last year: 75

—Number of companies initiating dividends in 2011: 22, a record

—Average yield of S&P 500’s 398 dividend-paying companies, as of March 16: 2.4 percent

—Highest-yielding stock sector: Telecommunications services, average 5.64 percent

—Apple’s rank among S&P companies paying the largest amount in dividends: No. 2, behind AT&T

—Number of S&P 500 companies with stock market values that are less than the nearly $10 billion annual dividend that Apple will pay: 200

—Four top-performing stock mutual fund categories of 2011: Utilities, real estate, health care, consumer staples; all are sectors in which relatively large numbers of stocks pay dividends.

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Source for fund performance: Morningstar

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