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Visualizing Historic Yields for the S&P 500

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Ever since we put the S&P 500 at your fingertips, we’ve explored a lot of different ways to visualize that treasure trove of U.S. stock market data as represented by the S&P 500 (Index: SPX).

But until today, we’ve never presented the historic yields for the index. The following chart fills that gap in our visualizations of the S&P 500′s data, showing the index’ monthly trailing year earnings yield and its trailing year dividend yield from January 1871 through March 2021:

As a general rule, dividends have represented anywhere from half to two-thirds of the earnings of S&P 500 companies.

Both the S&P 500′s earnings and dividend yields have fallen over time, with the most significant downward shift occurring in the 1990s. This shift coincides with the arrival of the Dot Com Bubble and the modern era of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies, which have set U.S. interest rates on a long term falling trend.

Those long term trends are punctuated by periodic spikes in the data. Spikes in either data series tend to indicate crashing stock prices rather than surging earnings or dividends.

If you would like to sample the raw data behind these values, our S&P 500 At Your Fingertips tool can provide you with the values of the S&P 500 or its predecessor indices, their trailing year earnings per share, and their trailing year dividends per share for any month from January 1871 through the last month.


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