Companies repurchasing their own shares accounted for more than half of all first-quarter earnings growth S&P 500 companies, according to a JPMorgan report.
Total earnings per share grew 4.0% during the first quarter for the S&P 500 firms. Stock buybacks accounted for 2.2% of that growth, according to JPM; buybacks delivered only 0.3% to the 7.7% EPS growth the cohort delivered from 2001 to 2018.
“This is corporate executives saying, ‘Rather than investing back into the business by making capital expenditures or buying equipment, I’m just going to buy my own shares,'” JPMorgan Asset Management global market strategist David Kelly told Axios. “That says a lot about your view of the long-term prospects for your business.”
Companies spent a record $1.085 trillion on share repurchases in 2018 and are on track surpass that this year. Last month, Moody’s warned that the cash flow boon bestowed by last year’s tax cuts, rather than trickling down to workers as promised, are instead spending that cash on buybacks and dividends.
“The [tax cuts are] positive for cash flow, but even an optimistic view of that savings pales in comparison to the jump in share buybacks in 2018 and [the savings] can be wiped out entirely by even a modest change in share buybacks,” Moddy’s SVP Christina Padgett told the website. “We would prefer to see a reduction of debt or investment in core operating activities that could increase a company’s cash generation in the future.”