Messages: What Members Are Asking On-Line
by CI Staff
Can you advise me of a source on the Web that has good dividend history, such as dividend amount, ex-dividend date, date paid, date of record, and date declared?
—F.F.CI Editor Responds: From time to time, our readers ask us for sites offering comprehensive company dividend histories. Most financial Web sites provide news items detailing the specifics behind an upcoming dividend payment. However, using such resources to find this information on a number of companies is time consuming. Luckily, Thomsons Earnings.com Web site (www.earnings.com) offers this information for free in an easy-to-read format. The site provides the per share dividend amount, the ex-dividend date, date payable, date of record, and date declared for companies listed by calendar date. The site also offers webcasts of presentations to analysts and quarterly conference calls, a history of quarterly earnings announcements and estimates, and historical stock split data.
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I had been downloading mutual fund charts from Bigcharts.com. Then I had occasion to download the same charts on AAII. I was stunned to see that the charts were not the same. How can this be?
—S.B.CI Editor Responds: The short answer is that both charts are (probably) correct. Depending on the Web site you are using to plot mutual fund prices, you will see charts whose historical fund prices may or may not have been adjusted for dividend distributions.
As a reference point, we went to the Vanguard Web site (www.vanguard.com) and created a five-year price chart for the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBMFX), which is shown in Figure 1. This chart corresponds to the one you would find at BigCharts, with both sites plotting price data that does not appear to be adjusted for dividend distributions. In both cases, the price over the five-year period fluctuated between roughly $10 and $10.60.
In stark contrast is the five-year chart for VBMFX fromProphet.net, which is available at the AAII Web site. As is shown in Figure 2, this chart shows prices in a steady climb from around $6.00 in early 2001 to around $10 at the close of 2005. While the Prophet Web site does not explicitly state that it adjusts its prices for dividend distributions, and therefore does not state their adjustment methodology, we feel that it is safe to say that they do.
Another site that does adjust its prices for dividend distributions is Yahoo!Finance (finance.yahoo.com). This site is a useful source of free, historical pricing data for stocks and mutual funds. Looking up the historical prices for VBMFX at the start of 2001, we see that Yahoo! has adjusted prices around $7.80, while unadjusted prices were roughly $10. While the $7.80 adjusted price is still well above the prices shown on the Prophet chart at the AAII Web site at the beginning of 2001, we see that the adjustment for dividend distributions does lower the price relative to unadjusted prices.
Both sets of charts mentioned in your question are correct. However, as we have shown, whether or not the data is adjusted for dividend distributions can have a significant impact on the way in which the data is represented. Therefore, it is important to be mindful that such situations may arise.