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Cor­po­ra­tions’ ap­petite for buy­ing back their own stock has hit a record high.

Stock buybacks by com­pa­nies in the bench­mark S&P 500 in­dex climbed to $194.07 bil­lion in the third quar­ter, ac­cord­ing to data from S&P Dow Jones In­dices.

The buy­ing spree, which has steadily in­creased since the se­cond quar­ter of 2017, has been led by com­pa­nies in the tech­nol­ogy sec­tor. Ap­ple spent more than $80 bil­lion on share buybacks through the first three quar­ters of this year. Chip­maker Qual­comm also bet big on its own stock, shelling out $21.2 bil­lion in the third quar­ter.

“Com­pa­nies have adopted buybacks as an op­tion when they have ex­cess cap­i­tal and noth­ing bet­ter to do with it,” says Michael Schoonover, port­fo­lio man­ager of the Cat­a­lyst Buy­back Strat­egy Fund.

Buybacks, in which com­pa­nies pur­chase their own shares and re­tire them, are pop­u­lar with in­vestors be­cause fewer shares out­stand­ing lifts earn­ings per share, the most watched barom­e­ter of cor­po­rate suc­cess.

The sweep­ing tax law passed by the GOP-led Congress last year gave Cor­po­rate Amer­ica in­cen­tive to give its share prices a boost.

The leg­is­la­tion re­duced the tax rate on cor­po­ra­tions to 21 per­cent from 35 per­cent, leav­ing many com­pa­nies flush with sav­ings. Those that had been keep­ing cash over­seas also got a break on the tax hit for bring­ing those prof­its back into the U.S. As a re­sult, many com­pany boards took steps to au­tho­rize or boost ex­ist­ing share buy­back pro­grams.

Com­pany buy­back au­tho­riza­tions, which clear the way for spend­ing a cer­tain amount on share re­pur­chases over a spe­cific time span, usu­ally sev­eral years, also marked a mile­stone this year. The amount of share buybacks that com­pany boards au­tho­rized this year is now at around $950 bil­lion, an all-time high that eclipses the pre­vi­ous record of $813 bil­lion in 2015, Schoonover said.

The ramp-up in buybacks this year has also al­lowed com­pa­nies to re­pur­chase their stock at lower prices, be­gin­ning with the sell-off in Fe­bru­ary that knocked the S&P 500 into a cor­rec­tion, or a de­cline of 10 per­cent or more from its peak at the time in Jan­uary.

“These com­pa­nies that made all these mas­sive au­tho­riza­tions this year picked a pretty good time to go out there and start buy­ing their stock on the mar­ket dip,” Schoonover said.

The mar­ket even­tu­ally re­cov­ered, reach­ing a new high in Septem­ber. The wave of sell­ing since Oc­to­ber, how­ever, opens the door for com­pa­nies to once again buy back shares at a dis­count.

“This is prob­a­bly go­ing to be the first year where com­pa­nies au­tho­rize more than $1 tril­lion,” Schoonover said. “With all of this money au­tho­rized, once you’re see­ing some pull­back in stocks due to volatil­ity, the com­pa­nies will ac­tu­ally fol­low through on those buybacks.”

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