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European banks: the yield field

Dividends are back. Two of Europe’s most popular banking recovery stocks are restarting payouts. So long as lenders focus on profits rather than growth, owning high dividend banks will be a more crowded trade.

On Thursday, Italy’s UniCredit said it would pay a 32 cent dividend after beating forecasts. German lender Commerzbank pledged to pay an unspecified amount in respect of 2018. It could arguably have paid out this year given the progress made on its restructuring. Shares in both, already trending up, rose further.

Dividends serve two purposes. One, obviously, is to reward providers of capital. This is an emotive subject for shareholders of investment banks, given how well the men in red braces have been rewarded for destroying shareholder wealth. And dividends are generally responsible for the lion’s share of long-term equity returns.