Buybacks are Bad. Buybacks are Declining. The Decline in Buybacks is Bad.
The much criticized practice of corporate stock buybacks appears to have declined significantly this year. That’s great news, right? An Axios Markets report says “not exactly.” Here’s an excerpt:
After buying back more than $1 trillion of their own stock last year, public companies are slowing their share repurchases in 2019, and that will add to troubles for the market and the economy.
Why it matters: Buybacks have been a major catalyst for the market’s rise in recent years and remain an important driver of higher prices, as earnings growth has slowed and investors have become net sellers of equities. With the trade war weighing on business spending and confidence and earnings growth expected to weaken into negative territory for companies in both the second and third quarters this year, the stock market’s legs look increasingly fragile.
By the numbers: The record buyback binge in 2018 accounted for almost half of stocks’ EPS growth, the highest share since 2007. S&P reported earlier this year that Q1 2019 was the first quarter in 7 that the pace of buybacks slowed. That theme has continued through the year, as the 4-week average pace of buybacks has fallen 30% from 2018’s pace as of this week, data from Bank of America Merrill Lynch shows.
The report quotes a recent client note from BAML that says that investors have become “less enamored with buybacks,” and that late 2018 was “the turning point in this cycle of expanding debt balance sheets, buying growth and rewarding shareholders.” It says that the bottom line is that companies are preparing for the economy to slow and want to pare debt and hold cash in the event of a downturn.
-John Jenkins, TheCorporateCounsel.net, August 14, 2019
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