The reduction could signal a crisis or a calculated move that ambitious companies undertake to grow.

Aside from being the classic fairy tale fatalist, Chicken Little would've made for the crack financial analyst, at least in answering this question: When dividends are falling, is the sky falling, too?

The question bears weight – enough to crush an investor's portfolio – because a plummeting dividend could signify big trouble. Of course, much depends on how far the dividend drops, and how fast. Arguably, a dip may not mean all that much. Few companies have upped their dividends without interruption in consecutive years without a hiccup or plateau. In fact, the roll call of dividend aristocrats is short. It's not easy to raise payouts for 25 straight years or more.

The list, if you're wondering, includes both Coca-Cola Co. (ticker: KO) and PepsiCo (PEP), coming in at 55 and 45 years respectively. Maybe that's one way to score the Coke-Pepsi rivalry. But both lag behind the current champ, American States Water Co. (AWR) at 63 years: a dividend king of nearly senior citizen proportions.

Read more...