The biggest expansion of U.S. stock dividends in eight decades is slowing to a crawl.

Payouts by companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index are poised to rise about 5 percent in the fourth quarter, the smallest increase since they plummeted in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, data compiled by Bloomberg and S&P Dow Jones Indices show. With earnings and revenue declining, chief executive officers are scaling back a key perk of ownership that has supported American equities for the last six years.

The deterioration adds to concerns including Federal Reserve interest rate policy and a slowing global recovery for American investors who have relied on the stock market as a source of income as bond interest hovered at its lowest levels ever. While stocks still hold a yield advantage over 10-year Treasuries, defending it is getting harder as a six-year expansion in profits grinds to a halt.

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