The investing strategy which focuses on Dogs of the Dow was popularized by Michael Higgins in his book, "Beating the Dow". The strategy's simplicity is one of its most attractive attributes. The Dogs of the Dow are the 10 of the 30 companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) with the highest dividend yield. In the Dogs of the Dow strategy, the investor shuffles around his or her portfolio, adjusting it so that it is always equally allocated in each of these 10 stocks.
Typically, such an investor would need to completely rid his or her portfolio of about three to four stocks every year and replace them with different ones. The stocks are usually replaced because their dividend yields have fallen out of the top 10, or occasionally, because they have been removed from the DJIA altogether.
Is it Really that Simple?
Yes, this strategy really is as simple as it sounds. At the end of every year, you reassess the 30 components of the DJIA, determine which ones have the highest dividend yield, and ask your broker to make your portfolio as equally weighted in each of these 10 stocks as possible. Hold onto these 10 stocks for one calendar year, until the following Jan 1, and repeat the process. This is a long-term strategy, requiring a long period to see results. There have been a few years in which the Dow has outperformed the Dogs, so it is the long-term averages that proponents of the strategy rely on.
The premise of this investment style is that the Dow laggards, which are temporarily out-of-favor stocks, are still good companies because they are still included in the DJIA; therefore, holding on to them is a smart idea, in theory. Once these companies rebound and the market has revalued them properly (or so you hope), you can sell them and replenish your portfolio with other good companies that are temporarily out of favor. Companies in the Dow have historically been very stable companies that can weather any market decline with their solid balance sheets and strong fundamentals. Furthermore, because there is a committee perpetually tinkering with the DJIA's components, you can rest assured that the DJIA is made up of good, solid companies.
By the Numbers
As mentioned earlier, one of the big attractions of the Dogs of the Dow strategy is its simplicity; the other is its performance. From 1957 to 2003, the Dogs outperformed the Dow by about 3%, averaging a return rate of 14.3% annually whereas the Dows averaged 11%. The performance between 1973 and 1996 was even more impressive, as the Dogs returned 20.3% annually, whereas the Dows averaged 15.8%.
Variations of the Dogs
Because of this strategy's simplicity and its returns, many have tried to alter it in an attempt to refine it, making it both simpler and higher yielding. There is the Dow 5, which includes the five Dogs of the Dow that have the lowest per share price. Then there is the Dow 4, which includes the 4 highest priced stocks of the Dow 5. Finally, there is the Foolish 4, made famous by the Motley Fool, which chooses the same stocks as the Dow 4, but allocates 40% of the portfolio to the lowest priced of these four stocks and 20% to the other three stocks.
These variations of the Dogs of the Dow were all developed using backtesting, or testing strategies on old data. The likelihood of these strategies outperforming the Dogs of the Dow or the DJIA in the future is very uncertain; however, the results of the backtesting are interesting. The table below is based on data from 1973-1996.
Before you go out and start applying one of these strategies, consider this: picking the highest yielding stocks makes some intuitive sense, but picking stocks based strictly on price seems odd. Share price is a fairly relative thing; a company could split its shares but still be worth the same, simply having twice as many shares with half the share price. When it comes to the variations on the Dogs of the Dow, there are many more questions than there are answers.
As is the case with the other strategies we've looked at, the Dogs of the Dow strategy is not fool-proof. The theory puts a lot of faith in the assumption that the time period from the mid-20th century to the turn of the 21st century will repeat itself over the long run. If this assumption is accurate, the Dogs will provide about a 3% greater return than the Dow, but this is by no means guaranteed.
The Dogs of the Dow is a simple and effective strategy based on the results of the last 50 years. Pick the 10 highest yielding stocks of the 30 Dow stocks, and weigh your portfolio equally among them, adjusting the portfolio annually, and you can expect about a 3% outperformance of the Dow. That is, if history repeats itself.
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