In a December Barron’s article, I anticipated that 2019 could potentially surpass 2018 in terms of companies authorizing buybacks. Earlier this week, I published an article on ValueWalk discussing how more diverse participation across industry sectors has resulted in 2019 already outpacing the record-setting year in 2018 of more than $1.08 trillion in share repurchase authorizations. As of the end of February 2019, this remains the case with 197 companies authorizing more than $227 billion in buybacks versus 181 companies authorizing $221 billion in buybacks at this point last year.
Record buyback activity during 2018 and 2019 has been fueled by tax reform, lower corporate taxes, and corporate cash repatriation at more favorable rates. Last year, many companies used their tax savings to pay down debt and issue one-time bonuses. We expect more of that money to flow into buybacks this year and future years.
The buyback authorizations so far this year have been from a more diverse set of industries compared to last year. While we are just 16.7% through the year, the average sector’s buyback authorizations are at 31% of 2018 levels with seven of the 12 sectors at 30% or more of 2018’s levels.
More diverse participation in buybacks may mean more support to the market. Consider 2018 where 51% of buybacks could be accounted for by either 27 companies or just two sectors (technology and financials). In this scenario, a vast majority of companies had a much smaller buyback allocation to work with in order to support their stock prices, especially during the periods of volatility. This year, more diverse participation in buyback authorizations could change that.
2019 YTD Buyback Data as of 2/28/2019
|Sector||Buyback Amount ($ billions)||% of 2019 Total||% of 2018 Amount|
Source: Catalyst Capital Advisors LLC, Bloomberg LP and FactSet.