S&P 500 share repurchases increased 59.3% to $159.3 billion during Q1:14, up from the $100 billion year ago and up 23.1% versus Q4:13. For the 12 months ending March 2014, S&P 500 companies increased buyback expenditures by 29.0% to $534.9 billion from the $414.6 billion posted during the corresponding 12-month period in 2013. The previous 12-month high mark was reached in 2007, when companies spent $589.1 billion. The 12-month recession low point was 2009 with $137.6 billion.
The lower share count pushed up earnings per share significantly (defined as a 4% impact) for 99 issues in the S&P 500. Buyback and dividend expenditures combined reached a new record high in the first quarter of $241.2 billion, replacing the fourth quarter of 2007 record when $233.2 billion was spent on buybacks and dividends. Of the 404 issues which reported buybacks over the past year, 346 companies paid a cash dividend, with 217 of them spending more on buybacks than dividends. Buyback program authorizations have continued to increase.
Technology increased its dominance of buybacks, accounting for 30.9% of all buybacks in Q1 (up from 26.7% in Q4). The top 10 companies that implemented the biggest buybacks hailed from the tech sector, including Cisco Systems (CSCO), Oracle (ORCL) and Corning (GLW).Apple led the Index with its $18 billion record setting quarter and International Business Machines (IBM) was second at $8.2 billion in buybacks. The top five were rounded out by Exxon Mobil ($3.9 billion), FedEx ($2.8 billion), and Boeing Company ($2.5 billion).
Recent data from TrimTabs suggest a slowdown in buybacks in Q2:14 to $92.7 and to just $11.5 billion in June. If true, it would be the lowest monthly level since May of 2012, but reflects the current level of the S&P, rather than a reversal of the strong trends.