NEW YORK — U.S. companies so far this year are paying out more of their profits in the form of dividends to shareholders, with the number of companies increasing their payouts at a 15-year high, Standard & Poor's Corp. said this week.
S&P said 590 U.S. companies increased dividends in the first quarter, the most since 1981 and an 8% increase over last year.
In addition, there were fewer divided reductions or omissions in the first quarter than since S&P started keeping records in 1956.
In March, dividend increases were up 19% from last year as 165 companies increased their payouts, compared with 139 last March.
For all of 1996, dividends on the S&P 500 are likely to exceed 1995 levels by 6%, S&P said.