US companies post record buybacks

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Companies listed on the S&P 500 bought back a record-setting $234.5 billion in shares in the third quarter of 2021, surpassing the previous record of $223 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to preliminary data from S&P Dow Jones Indices, The Hill reported.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic and efforts to conserve cash, buybacks fell to around $89 billion in the second quarter of 2020. But in the second quarter of 2021, S&P 500 buybacks neared $199 billion, around where they were in the first quarter of 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Buybacks benefit stock holders by lowering a company’s share count and upping profits per share. They can also signal to investors that executives are positive about their organisations’ financial future.

“It’s always comforting to have a management team come in and tell you how undervalued they think their shares are,” Anne Wickland, a portfolio manager at Easterly Investment Partners, said, per the Journal. “It’s a vote of confidence in the longer-term outlook.”

But recently, Democrats have criticized buybacks, claiming companies should invest in their businesses rather than focusing on share prices, The Hill reported.

Just last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized Hertz rental car company for providing buybacks to its investors despite increasing rental prices.

In a letter to Hertz, Warren wrote that the decision “Reveals that the company is happy to reward executives, company insiders, and big shareholders while stiffing consumers with record-high rental car costs and ignoring the recent history that nearly wiped out the company.”

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