June 8 (Bloomberg) -- American common equity is increasing for the first time in five years, threatening to dilute corporate profits as companies sell a record amount of stock and cut dividends the most since 1938.
Wells Fargo & Co., ProLogis and more than 150 other companies raised $82.2 billion this quarter, beating the record pace at the height of the technology bubble in 2000, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The combination of adding shares and restricting dividends will reduce annual equity returns as much as 4.1 percent, the data show.
Offerings since March 31 will increase outstanding shares in the S&P 500 by 3.4 percent on an annualized basis, adjusting for the market values of companies selling stock, data from Bloomberg and S&P show. The rise is based on S&P’s calculation of shares added or removed from the index through sales, buybacks and takeovers, known as the divisor.
The annualized increase in the S&P 500’s share count would cut estimated per-share profit this year by 3.3 percent to $57.23, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
The 46 percent decline in S&P 500 corporate earnings since its peak in the second quarter of 2007 is forcing companies to conserve cash by shrinking dividends, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Combined payouts will fall 23 percent to $21.97 per share for companies in the benchmark index this year, the most since the 36 percent drop in 1938, S&P estimates.
Cutting the dividend yield by 0.8 percentage point from last year to 2.34 percent and the dilution from share sales would cut the S&P 500’s total return by 4.1 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
While a reduction of that size represents less than a third of the average yearly increase in the index from 1982 through 2007, it’s a bigger drag in markets battered by the worst losses in 70 years, when the S&P 500 tumbled 38 percent last year. U.S. equities have returned 6 percent on average since 1900, inflation-adjusted data compiled by the London Business School and Zurich-based Credit Suisse Group AG show.
U.S. financial companies accounted for almost two-thirds of about $1.5 trillion in global asset writedowns and credit losses that drove shares of banks, brokers and insurers in the S&P 500 down as much as 84 percent since their 2007 peak.
Seventy-nine financial companies sold $60.7 billion of shares this quarter, reducing the claim existing shareholders have on earnings by more than 20 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Stock sales picked up as the S&P 500 rallied 39 percent from a 12-year low in March and surpassed the record $65.6 billion from the first quarter of 2000, just as the gauge started a 49 percent plunge. The 153 companies that have sold equity since March increased their outstanding shares by an average of 23 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The U.S. will shrink by the most since 1946 this year, according to a Bloomberg survey of 61 economists. The jobless rate rose to 9.4 percent in May, a government report showed June 5. Corporate earnings are forecast to decline for two more quarters after dropping the last seven, the longest streak since the Great Depression, analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg show.
“What we find is that secondary-equity offerings frequently signal a view in management suites that prices are rich,” said Robert Arnott, chairman and founder of Research Affiliates, which oversees $32 billion in Newport Beach, California. “Does that mean this is an interim top? Who knows, but it would be unsurprising.”
-- Read More...