I’ve gotten a few questions about the Dogs of The Dow, which is a stock-picking strategy that involves buying equal amounts of the 10 highest-yielding stocks from 30 companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. At the beginning of each year, you adjust the portfolio to again to hold only the top 10 highest-yielding stocks from the previous year, selling the rest.
This strategy had its 15-minutes of fame in the 1990s, but somehow keeps popping up now and again. At the site DogsOfTheDow.com, you’ll see a rather biased presentation of this strategy. I mean, look at the very first sentence of the site, after all the ads (emphasis mine):
Looking for a simple way to select high dividend yield Dow stocks for your investment portfolio? Try Dogs of the Dow. Read on and you will discover a technique that would have given you a 17.7% average annual return since 1973! That’s not bad, especially considering that the Dow Jones Industrial Average overall return was 11.9% during that same period (As reported in U.S. News & World Report, July 8, 1996)
Umm… yes, in 1996 this strategy was found to have excellent results looking backwards (known as data mining). That was fifteen years ago! You’d think the stats would have been updated a bit since then. I wonder why it hasn’t? Perhaps it’s because the Dogs of the Dow strategy has since lagged the Dow itself over the last 15 years. Check out this MarketWatch article by Mark Hulbert:
The strategy took the investment world by storm in the early and mid-1990s, on the strength of both its simplicity and excellent long-term track record — at least when back-tested. A funny thing happened on the way to the bank, however: In real time since then, the strategy has failed to keep up with a simple index fund. For example, the strategy has beaten the Dow itself in just 5 of the last 15 calendar years. And those five winning years have not come close to making up for the losses incurred in the 10 losing years.
As with many such simplistic strategies, as soon as it is pointed out, the market adjusts and the outperformance disappears. So while I’m still intrigued by the idea of living off of dividend income, I see nothing special about the Dogs of the Dow.