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Corporate America stepped up the pace of its share repurchase programs marginally in first-quarter 2017, scooping up $131.2 billion worth of stock—although buyback activity in recent quarters is still lower than where it was 12 to 18 months ago.

That $131.2 billion in the first three months of 2017 is an increase of 3 percent from the $127.4 billion spent in the final three months of 2016. Then again, companies spent $151.5 billion in the year-ago period, and fewer companies are buying back stock overall.

So yes, whatever your opinion of share repurchase programs may be, you can generally keep that attitude for now—but the pace of activity has receded from the high-water mark we saw in late 2015 and early 2016.

Don’t take our word for it here; read the more detailed research report in our Research section. But for those few of you not likely to click through to the original report, we’ll run down the major points.

  • Since first quarter 2012, companies have now spent $2.54 trillion on share repurchase programs.
  • Companies have made 18,458 “firm quarter” purchases across the 21 quarters of that period. That is, not all companies have repurchased stock in every single quarter; but in total, all companies buying back stock have reported 18,458 purchases in that time.
  • The average share repurchase per firm quarter is $137.6 million.
  • We have 584 incidents of companies buying back more than $1 billion worth of shares in a single quarter. Those “mega-buybacks” account for only 3.2 percent of all buybacks in the last five years, but 47 percent of all repurchasing dollars.

See nifty chart, below.

Who’s been spending the most on share repurchase programs? All the big name companies you’d expect: Apple above all ($142 billion spent since 2012); with Exxon Mobil, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle following behind in the $45 billion to $55 billion range.

You can see all the details in our research report, including historical data for big spenders in recent quarters and “share repurchase yield” to measure the effect repurchases had on market capitalization. Enjoy.


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