Investors faced with a lack of income options elsewhere are relying on dividend checks, and activist money managers want to see those checks grow.
Large U.S. corporations are sitting on $2.7 trillion in cash and equivalents.
But while they're paying out 27% of their current cash flow to shareholders, billion-dollar fund managers want to see that yield climb toward the historical average: 41% or even higher.
"Relatively higher yields are attractive to income investors who currently have few alternatives," sums up Howard Silverblatt, who tracks this stat for Standard & Poor's.
Interestingly enough, if you bring in small companies, cash flow yields edge up, but are still depressed by historical standards. For the entire universe of U.S. stocks -- and not just the S&P 500 -- the current cash yield expands to 30% versus a long-term average of 52%, Silverblatt says.
Of course, what makes dividends especially attractive is the favorable tax treatment.
Silverblatt is worried about a revived debate around raising the dividend tax rate to heat up going into 2012.