Are cheap UK dividend shares a once-in-a-decade passive income opportunity?

With their current affordability and promising yields, our writer explores whether now could be an ideal time to load up on UK dividend shares.

UK money in a Jar on a background

Image source: Getty Images

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More.

According to the analysts at Fidelity, UK shares have been getting cheaper and cheaper relative to rival markets in the US and Europe for several years.

A quick glance at some commonly used valuation measures backs up this statement emphatically. For example, analysis from Schroders shows that back in 2015, the price-to-earnings multiple for the UK stock market was less than 10% below that of both the US and Europe. That has now fallen to over 20% below Europe and more than 40% below the US.

The way I see it, there are two possible explanations. Either the attractive yields and current affordability of UK dividend shares represent a golden opportunity for investors seeking a reliable passive income stream, or British stocks are cheap for a reason because of doubts in relation to whether companies can deliver earnings and recover their valuations.

Let’s begin by exploring the possibility of the latter.

Not all cheap stocks are good investments

In the world of investing, a value trap occurs when a stock appears undervalued according to traditional financial metrics.

As a result, investors see these low prices and become convinced that they’ve found a great deal. However, the low share price may be due to fundamental issues within the company. These could include declining sales, high debt, management problems, or even an outdated business model.

Thinking about value traps serves as a useful reminder to me that not all cheap stocks are good investments. But what about cheap UK dividend stocks?

Well, for this to be true in the context of the British stock market, I think the relatively low valuations would have to be attributed to one or more of the following factors: underlying fundamental problems within the companies, economic factors such as a recession or economic instability, or negative market sentiment. In my view, only one of those applies in the case of the UK stock market.

Negative market sentiment creating opportunities

Across the FTSE 350, I see a wide range of high-quality companies with strong fundamentals and exciting growth prospects. And relative to other countries in Europe and North America, I don’t think the UK is battling with any more serious economic woes than its peers. That leaves me with just one explanation: market sentiment and perception.

Morgan Stanley analyst Graham Secker points out that UK equities have a long-standing reputation for being reasonably valued, but that persistent negative investor sentiment about the overall UK economic conditions over the last 5-10 years has arguably made them even more affordable than usual.

Even if companies are fundamentally strong, negative market sentiment about a particular country can keep share prices depressed. And that’s exactly what I believe we’re observing in the UK stock market.

Building a stable passive income stream

Consequently, I reckon investor sentiment towards British stocks is due an improvement. And if it comes, cheap dividend shares won’t stay cheap for long.

That’s why if I had any cash to spare, I’d load up on undervalued income stocks while I still had the opportunity. Doing so could position me well to benefit from a reliable and substantial passive income stream further down the line.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

Matthew Dumigan has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

More on Investing Articles

Young mixed-race woman jumping for joy in a park with confetti falling around her
Investing Articles

Why the FTSE 250 looks an incredible bargain

While all the attention is on the elite FTSE 100, the mid-cap FTSE 250 index looks unbelievably cheap. I don't…

Read more »

2024 year number handwritten on a sandy beach at sunrise
Investing Articles

Here’s my plan to make the most of juicy UK shares ahead of 2024 and beyond!

Our writer reckons there hasn't been a better time to snap up quality UK shares. She explains how she's planning…

Read more »

Young Black woman using a debit card at an ATM to withdraw money
Investing Articles

Here’s how many Lloyds shares I’d need to buy for a £100 monthly income!

Offering a higher dividend yield than the average across FTSE 100 stocks, are Lloyds shares worth buying for passive income…

Read more »

Playful senior couple in aprons dancing and smiling while preparing healthy dinner at home
Investing Articles

Up 27% in 2023, what next for the Tesco share price in 2024?

The Tesco share price has had a great 2023, rising 27% while the FTSE 100 was flat. But what might…

Read more »

Hand is turning a dice and changes the direction of an arrow symbolizing that the value of an ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) is going up (or vice versa)
Investing Articles

FTSE 250? No, I’d buy this index fund instead

Investing in index funds can be a profitable enterprise. Our author has been exploring the different options to determine the…

Read more »

Young black colleagues high-fiving each other at work
Investing Articles

This 4% yielding FTSE 100 giant is dirt-cheap and perfect for passive income!

Looking for a mammoth business with shares trading at discount levels and offering an excellent passive income opportunity? Our writer…

Read more »

UK money in a Jar on a background
Investing Articles

Here’s how I’d use dividend shares to try and turn £5,000 of savings into passive income of £900 a year

With dividend shares at today’s prices, Stephen Wright thinks there are two ways to turn a £5,000 investment into something…

Read more »

Investing Articles

After a recovery that Lazarus would have been proud of, is the easyJet share price worth a look?

With its dividend restored and its balance sheet repaired, the easyJet share price looks like a bargain. But Stephen Wright…

Read more »