Category Archives: S&P500 shares buybacks

31/5/20: S&P500 Shares Buybacks: Retained Earnings and Risk Hedging


Shares buybacks can have a severely destabilizing impact on longer term companies' valuations, as noted in numerous posts on this blog. In the COVID19 pandemic, legacy shares buybacks are associated with reduced cash reserves cushions and thiner equity floats for the companies that aggressively pursued this share price support strategy in recent years. Hence, logic suggests that companies more aggressively engaging in shares buybacks should exhibit greater downside volatility - de facto acting as de-hedging instrument for risk management.

Here is the evidence:


Note how dramatically poorer S&P500 Shares Buybacks index performance has been compared to the overall S&P500 in recent weeks. Since the start of March 2020, S&P500 Shares Buybacks index average daily performance measured in y/y returns has been -15.04%, against the S&P500 index overall performance of -0.89%. Cumulatively, at the end of this week, S&P500 Shares Buybacks index total return is down 10.18 percent against S&P500 total return of -0.967 percent.

While in good times companies have strong incentives to redistribute their returns to shareholders either through dividends or through share price supports or both, during the bad times having spare cash on balancesheet in the form of retained earnings makes all the difference. Or, as any sane person knows, insurance is a cost during the times of the normal, but a salvation during the times of shocks.

7/7/19: Investment for growth is at record lows for S&P500


Interesting chart via @DavidSchawel showing changes over time in corporate (S&P500 companies) distribution of earnings:

In simple terms:

  1. Much discussed shares buybacks are still the rage: running at 31% of all cash distributions, second highest level after 34% in 2007. On a cumulated basis, and taking into the account already reduced free float in S&P 500 over the years, this is a massive level of buybacks.
  2. 'Investment for growth' - as defined - is at 51% - the lowest on record.
  3. Meaningful investment for growth (often opportunistic M&As) is at 38%, tied for the lowest with 2007 figure.
S&P 500 firms are clearly not in investment mode. Despite 'Trump incentives' - under the TCJA 2017 tax cuts act - actual capex is running tied to the second lowest levels for 2018 and 2019, at 26% of all cash distributions.