New York, Mar. 25 2019 — S&P Dow Jones Indices (“S&P DJI”) announced today that preliminary Q4 2018 S&P 500® stock buybacks, or share repurchases, set a fourth consecutive record of $223.0 billion. This displaces the previous record of $203.8 billion, set during Q3 2018 and is a 62.8% increase from the $137.0 billion reported for Q4 2017.
For the year 2018, buybacks set an annual (and 12-month) record of $806.4 billion, up 55.3% from the prior year’s $519.4 billion, and up 36.9% from the prior annual record set in 2007, of $589.1 billion.
Historical data on S&P 500 buybacks are available at www.spdji.com/indices/equity/sp-500.
The record buybacks came as Q4 2018 stock prices declined an average 5.3%, which increased the number of shares that companies could repurchase for the same amount of capital.
As a result, the percentage of companies that substantially reduced share counts of at least 4% year-over-year rose to 18.8% (90 total issues), up from the prior quarter’s 17.7% (88 total issues) and Q4 2017’s 15.1% (70 total issues), giving EPS a stronger tailwind.
S&P 500 Q4 2018 dividends totaled $119.8 billion, a new record, up 3.5% from the $115.7 billion in Q3 2018.
Total shareholder return of buybacks and dividends for the quarter set a record of $342.8 billion, up 39.1% from the $246.4 billion reported for Q4 2017.
Total shareholder return for 2018 set a record at $1.263 trillion, surpassing Q3’s 12-month record of $1.166 trillion, and up 34.5% from $931.9 billion from 2017.
“Buybacks were again favored over dividends in both the rate of growth and aggregate dollars spent,” said Howard Silverblatt, Senior Index Analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “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.”