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What is Dividend Capture?

Dividend capture is a popular timing-oriented investment strategy that revolves around buying and selling dividend-paying stocks. This strategy involves purchasing shares just before the ex-dividend date to capture the upcoming dividend and then selling them shortly after. By focusing on dividend collection rather than long-term price appreciation, investors aim to generate regular income. However, implementing a successful dividend capture strategy requires careful consideration of various factors such as stock selection, market trends, and transaction costs. In this article, we will delve into the concept of dividend capture, its benefits and risks, and provide real-world examples to illustrate its application.

Understanding Dividend Capture

The primary objective of dividend capture is to profit from the dividend distribution of a stock rather than relying solely on capital gains. This strategy is typically employed for stocks that offer substantial dividend payments and have high trading volumes. By exploiting the regular cash infusions resulting from dividends, investors seek to maximize their income potential.

There are different approaches to implementing a dividend capture strategy. Some investors buy shares just before the ex-dividend date and sell them on the same day, while others may hold onto the shares for a short period before selling. The ultimate goal is to sell the shares at or above the purchase price, thereby capturing the dividend and potentially making a profit.

However, it is essential to recognize that stock prices don't always decrease by the exact dividend amount on the ex-dividend date. Several factors influence a company's share price, including market demand and overall performance. Stocks experiencing heavy accumulation or being in an uptrend are less likely to see a substantial drop in price on the ex-dividend date, potentially resulting in a net profit for the investor.

Criticism and Risks

While dividend capture can be an appealing strategy, it is not without its drawbacks and risks. One criticism is that it generally doesn't provide any tax advantages. The dividends earned through this strategy are typically taxed at the investor's ordinary tax rate, as the holding period is usually too short to qualify for favorable tax treatment on dividends. Nevertheless, if employed within a tax-advantaged account, such as an individual retirement account (IRA), the tax implications may be mitigated.

Transaction costs are another consideration when implementing dividend capture. As this strategy requires frequent trading, investors need to account for brokerage fees and commissions. However, with the rise of commission-free trading offered by some brokers, the cost factor may be reduced, increasing the appeal of active strategies like dividend capture.

Real-World Examples

To better understand dividend capture, let's consider two real-world examples. Firstly, on February 19, 2020, Microsoft (MSFT) went ex-dividend after declaring a $0.51 dividend. The stock closed at $187.23 the day before the ex-dividend date. Investors who purchased shares at or below this price were entitled to the dividend. The next day, the stock opened at $188.06, allowing investors to sell their holdings and realize a profit of $0.83 per share, in addition to the $0.51 dividend.

In contrast, Delta Air Lines (DAL) also went ex-dividend on the same day, with a declared dividend of $0.4025 per share. The stock closed at $58.72 the day before the ex-dividend date. However, on the ex-dividend day, the stock opened at $58.49. While investors faced a slight loss of $0.23 per share, they still received the dividend of $0.4025, resulting in a net profit of $0.1725 per share.

These examples highlight the potential outcomes of a dividend capture strategy. While profits can be achieved, there are risks involved. The stock price may open lower than expected, leading to a net loss for the investor. It is crucial to carefully assess market conditions, trends, and the specific dynamics of each stock before implementing a dividend capture strategy.


Dividend capture is a strategy similar to dividend arbitrage that seeks to reap incremental gains somewhat reliably around the ex-dividend date of a stock.

The investor seeks to benefit from the fact that stock prices don’t always go down as much as they should on the ex-dividend date, so by selling quickly at that point, the investor may still get a small gain from the dividend that will still be paid to him or her. Dividend capture is a strategy that plays on slight inefficiencies in prices around the ex-dividend date.

Theoretically, according to the efficient market hypothesis especially, the price of a stock on the ex-dividend date, which is the point at which a new buyer can no longer be paid the forthcoming dividend, will be lessened by the amount of the dividend. The dividend is to be paid out soon after that to whoever owned the shares at closing the day before the ex-dividend date.

What often happens, however, perhaps because psychologically investors want to believe that the stock is worth more than the current price minus the dividend, or other reasons, the price doesn’t decrease by the dividend amount immediately.

Which means that a trader who dumps the shares first thing in the morning on the ex-dividend date has a chance to come out ahead when the dividend, which is worth more than the price had decreased at that point, comes in a few days later.

The catch is that the trader will owe short-term capital gains taxes, decreasing any possible profit by their regular income tax rate.

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Disclaimers and Limitations

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