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Buybacks On The Rise, But Buyback ETFs Are Lagging

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Buybacks On The Rise, But Buyback ETFs Are Lagging
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Buybacks Surged In The Third Quarter

Flush with cash due in part to the tax reform legislation passed late last year, S&P 500 member firms are spending increasing amounts of capital on repurchasing their own shares.

In the second quarter, U.S. companies spent $190.6 billion buying back their own stock, up 0.80 percent from the first-quart record of $189.1 billion, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. Year-over-year, domestic buybacks surged a whopping 58.7 percent, notes S&P Dow Jones.

What Happened

While buybacks are surging, some of the exchange traded funds focusing on companies that are major share repurchasers are lagging the broad market. Entering Monday's trading session, the Invesco BuyBack Achievers ETF (NASDAQ: PKW) and the SPDR S&P 500 Buyback ETF (NYSE: SPYB) were up 5.9 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively, year-to-date. The S&P 500 was higher by 10.8 percent.

“The Q1 2018 buyback level was remarkable and the new Q2 2018 record continued to exceed expectations,” said Howard Silverblatt, Senior Index Analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.  “Given the record earnings, strong cash-flow, investor demand and corporate statements, the indications are that the high level will continue for the rest of the year.”

Why It's Important

In the second quarter, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was the share repurchaser, accounting for 11.5 percent of all S&P 500 buybacks, according to S&P Dow Jones. Historically, Apple holds the top six positions for share buybacks.

PKW's underlying index, the NASDAQ US BuyBack Achievers Index, requires companies to have reduced shares outstanding by at least 5 percent over the trailing 12 months to be included in the benchmark. Apple hasn't met that standard and isn't one of the ETF's holdings.

SPYB “takes the top 100 companies in the  S&P 500 with the highest buyback ratio in the last 12 months,” according to State Street.

Apple is just 1.07 percent of SPYB's weight. That ETF's technology exposure is more than 600 basis points higher than PKW's, likely explaining why the SPDR fund is outperforming its Invesco rival this year.

What's Next

The buyback trend is likely to continue with the biggest share repurchasers likely to remain major drivers of that theme.

“The buying continued to be top heavy, with the top 20 issues accounting for 49.7% of all S&P 500 buybacks (the 5-year average is 41.7%), a level not seen since Q3 2012, when it was at 53.4%,” said Silverblatt.

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