The influence of income-seeking shareholders, particularly SMSF trustees, is driving dividend trade in Australia at the expense of capital expenditure ('capex') growth, according to Credit Suisse.
Non-mining investment, already at 60 year lows relative to GDP, contracted at twice the rate expected in the March quarter despite lower interest rates and the cost of financing at generational lows, said Credit Suisse Australian equity strategist Hasan Tevfik.
“We believe it is the influence of income-seeking shareholders, the biggest marginal buyer of Aussie equities who are stopping capex and the shareholders in the epicentre of this trend are [SMSFs],” said Mr Tevfik.
SMSFs have one core asset, Aussie equities, in which they own 16 per cent of the market cap, he said.
“Two thirds of this is through direct ownership and their allocation is rising as their cash allocation is falling,” he said.
Mr Tevfik said SMSFs in pension phase, in particular, underpin the dividend trade since they “crave dividends to replenish their lost assets under management and love franking [credits] because of their zero tax status”.
Australian companies will continue to try and keep income-seeking SMSFs happy by growing dividends further, he added.
“However, we expect distribution growth will continue to come at the expense of capex; record high payout ratios and record low investment are two sides of the same coin,” said Mr Tevfik.
“While lower capex may impinge on future growth, [SMSFs] don’t seem to care.”
Mr Tevfik suggested SMSF investors also consider stocks that provide high dividend growth rather than just high dividend yield.
He recommended stocks such as Macquarie Group, AMP, QBE Insurance, Sonic Healthcare, Asciano, Boral, Bank of Queensland, Flight Centre, Challenger Limited, IOOF Holdings, Perpetual Limited, Fairfax Media, CSR, M2 Group and Nine Entertainment.
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