Company stock repurchases just hit its fourth consecutive quarterly record, the longest streak in at least two decades. Investors can also look to exchange traded funds that focus on the buyback strategy if the pace of repurchases continues.

The S&P Dow Jones Indices announced preliminary Q4 2018 S&P 500 stock buyback numbers of $223 billion, which marked the fourth consecutive quarterly record, the longest streak in the 20 years SPDJI has been tracking buybacks. The previous record of $203.8 billion was set during Q3 2018 and the Q4 number was a 62.6% jump from the $137.0 billion reported for Q4 2017.

For all of 2018, buybacks set a record $806.4 billion, or up 55.3% year-over-year and up 36.9% from the record $589.1 billion set back in 2007.

“Buybacks broadened out in Q4, as the top 20 issues accounted for 44.4% of all S&P 500 buybacks, near the recent historical average of 43.7%, down from Q3’s 54.3%, Q2’s 49.7% and Q1’s 49.5%. For the year, however, the top 20 accounted for 42.2% of the buybacks, substantially up from 2017’s 32.3%,” Howard Silverblatt, Senior Index Analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a note.

The record buybacks came in while stock prices declining an average 5.3% over Q4 2018, which only further increased the number of shares that companies could repurchase for the same amount of capital. Consequently, the percentage of companies that substantially cut share counts of at least 4% year-over-year surged to 18.8%, compared to the prior quarter’s 17.7% and Q4 2017’s 15.1%, bolstering earnings-per-share results.

“Buybacks were again favored over dividends in both the rate of growth and aggregate dollars spent,” Silverblatt added. “Companies continued to spend more of their tax savings on these share repurchases as they boosted earnings through significantly reduced share counts. Adding to the share reduction, and therefore the EPS impact, was Q4’s stock price decline, which permitted companies to buy even more shares for their dollars and reduce share count more efficiently.”

Company TickerSectorQ4 2018201820175-Year10-YearIndicated
BuybacksBuybacksBuybacksBuybacksBuybacksDividend
$ Million$ Million$ Million$ Million$ Million$ Million
AppleAAPLInformation Technology$10,114$74,246$34,427$228,961$260,449$13,769
OracleORCLInformation Technology$9,995$29,306$3,975$58,680$88,482$3,445
Wells FargoWFCFinancials$7,308$20,964$10,301$57,986$71,610$8,189
MicrosoftMSFTInformation Technology$6,413$16,300$8,405$66,093$118,506$14,117
MerckMRKHealth Care$5,933$9,091$4,014$28,428$43,774$5,679
JPMorganJPMFinancials$5,928$19,983$15,410$54,851$73,155$10,478
Bank of AmericaBACFinancials$5,231$20,094$12,814$42,069$45,307$5,795
Cisco SystemsCSCOInformation Technology$5,182$22,936$7,771$46,276$81,820$6,163
StarbucksSBUXConsumer Discretionary$5,170$10,709$3,306$18,828$21,114$1,791
PfizerPFEHealth Care$5,030$12,198$5,000$32,035$64,476$7,995
Home DepotHDConsumer Discretionary$4,445$9,963$8,000$38,843$57,619$6,145
CitigroupCFinancials$4,206$14,533$14,946$46,705$50,090$4,233
FacebookFBCommunication Services$4,045$16,087$5,222$21,388$25,140$0
Johnson & JohnsonJNJHealth Care$3,808$5,868$6,358$33,697$62,014$9,587
BroadcomAVGOInformation Technology$3,513$10,771$0$10,771$11,090$4,199
WalmartWMTConsumer Staples$3,249$7,410$8,296$29,131$68,413$6,159
AlphabetGOOG/LCommunication Services$2,650$9,075$4,846$19,394$20,312$0
VisaVInformation Technology$2,494$7,914$6,880$30,050$56,589$1,750
AmgenAMGNHealth Care$2,250$17,920$3,351$26,902$49,944$3,609
Internat’l Bus MachinesIBMInformation Technology$2,073$4,614$4,533$28,206$98,936$5,588
Top 20  $99,037$339,982$167,855$919,294$1,368,840$118,690
S&P 500$222,980$806,408$519,397$2,987,621$4,703,661$490,570
Top 20 % of S&P 50044.42%42.16%32.32%30.77%29.10%24.19%

Gross values are not adjusted for float

As more companies look to add value through share repurchases, ETF investors can also capitalize on the potential opportunity through buyback-themed ETF strategies.

For instance, ETF investors who believe in a rise in share repurchases can look to ETFs that specifically target companies that implement buyback schemes, including the Invesco Buyback Achievers ETF (NYSEArca: PKW), the SPDR S&P 500 Buyback ETF (NYSEArca: SPYB) and iShares U.S. Dividend and Buyback ETF (Cboe: DIVB).

PKW includes a broader selection of U.S. companies that have effected a net reduction in shares outstanding by 5% or more in the trailing 12 months. SPYB focuses on S&P 500 companies with the highest buyback ratio in the past 12 months. DIVB is comprised of U.S. stocks with a history of dividend payments and or share buybacks where holdings include those with the largest dividend and buyback programs in the market measured by dollar value.

S&P Dow Jones Indices
S&P 500, $ U.S. BILLIONS(preliminary in bold)
PERIODMARKETOPERATINGAS REPORTEDDIVIDEND &
VALUEEARNINGSEARNINGSDIVIDENDSBUYBACKSDIVIDENDBUYBACKBUYBACK
$ BILLIONS$ BILLIONS$ BILLIONS$ BILLIONS$ BILLIONSYIELDYIELDYIELD
2018 Prelim.$21,033.30$1,281.83$1,116.83$456.31$806.412.17%3.83%6.00%
2017$22,821.24$1,066.00$940.86$419.77$519.401.84%2.28%4.12%
2016$19,267.93$919.85$818.55$397.21$536.382.06%2.78%4.85%
2015$17,899.56$885.38$762.74$382.32$572.162.14%3.20%5.33%
2014$18,245.16$1,004.22$909.09$350.43$553.281.92%3.03%4.95%
5YR Total (mkt avg)$19,853.44$5,157.28$4,548.07$2,006.05$2,987.6210.10%15.05%25.15%
10YR Total (mkt avg)$16,124.68$9,119.73$8,158.26$3,240.14$4,703.6620.09%29.17%49.26%
12/31/2018 Prelim.$21,033$293.99$240.31$119.81$222.982.17%3.83%6.00%
9/30/2018$24,579$349.04$306.70$115.72$203.761.81%2.93%4.75%
6/30/2018$23,036$327.53$288.55$111.60$190.621.89%2.80%4.69%
3/29/2018$22,496$311.26$281.28$109.18$189.051.90%2.56%4.46%
12/29/2017$22,821$288.93$230.12$109.46$136.971.84%2.28%4.12%
9/29/2017$21,579$268.35$243.68$105.45$129.171.92%2.40%4.32%
6/30/2017$20,762$261.39$231.40$104.01$120.111.96%2.41%4.37%
3/31/2017$20,276$247.32$235.65$100.86$133.151.98%2.51%4.49%
12/31/2016$19,268$240.11$207.93$103.82$135.292.06%2.78%4.85%
9/30/2016$18,742$247.98$219.46$98.43$112.202.10%2.92%5.01%
6/30/2016$18,193$222.77$201.79$98.30$127.502.14%3.22%5.36%
3/31/2016$17,958$208.99$189.37$96.67$161.392.15%3.28%5.43%
12/31/2015$17,900$201.95$163.76$99.39$145.882.14%3.20%5.33%
9/30/2015$16,917$224.14$204.58$95.07$150.582.22%3.30%5.52%
6/30/2015$18,219$230.84$201.35$94.45$131.562.03%3.04%5.07%
3/31/2015$18,303$228.45$193.05$93.41$144.131.98%2.94%4.92%
12/30/2014$18,245$237.14$202.31$92.80$132.631.92%3.03%4.95%

 

For more information on the buybacks strategy, visit our buybacks category.

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