More public companies decreased their dividends

Publicly traded companies reported their worst dividends in the last quarter of 2008 since 1956, according to statistics from Standard & Poor’s.

Two hundred and eighty eight of the approximately 7,000 public companies decreased their dividend during the period. That represented a 444% increase from the 52 issues that decreased their dividend in the same period of 2007.

Reported dividend increases fell 40.0% to 475 from the 792 reported during the fourth quarter of 2007.

Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at Standard & Poor's said: ‘The full impact of the cuts won't be felt until the first quarter of 2009.’

He added: ‘Dividend increases continued to fall, and given the heightened uncertainty and change in spending habits, companies will be wary of any increases.’