In my short history following stocks and participating in the stock market, I can't remember a set of dividends that was so anticipated, and so questioned as the upcoming Bank of America (BAC) pay outs. In November, 2007 when I purchased Bank of America shares I asked the question, Will Bank of America continue to raise its dividend year after year, and survive this credit crunch just as they have survived every financial crises in the past. At the time BAC was yielding 5.7% and I was betting that they would not cut their dividend, and that they would survive the credit crunch. Needless to say that even though I purchased BAC when the Loonie was trading around $1.07 vs. the Greenback, I am currently underwater on my BAC position.
Fast forward to today where BAC yields a whopping 7.8% and the CEO, Ken Lewis recently made the following comments:
Chief Executive Officer Ken Lewis said on Monday the second-largest U.S. bank has no plans to cut its dividend. "You have to do what is in the best interest of the company, but we see no reason to cut the dividend," Lewis said "
Should we believe Ken? Considering all the dividend payments in the U.S. banking sector that have fallen by the wayside, I'm not sure. WaMu, Citi, and Wachovia among others, have all cut their dividend since November, 2007. It does seem that Ken left some ambiguity in his statement. He sees no reason to cut right now, but he may see a reason in the future; if he does he'll do what is in the best interest of the company.
The next few dividend payments that BAC pays out will tell the story. If BAC raises their dividend within the next few payments I am certain that several dividend investors will be adding to their positions or getting in for the first time, as these yield levels are hard to pass up for a bank with such a solid history of dividend growth. One would have to assume that because of where BAC is trading today (7.8% yield), the market is pricing in a dividend cut.