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Excited about a big new buyback? Companies such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), IBM and Exxon (NYSE:XOM) had some of the largest buyback announcements in 2008. However upon closer inspection, an announcement, or rather authorization, is not always an indication of corporate spending. As highlighted by the chart below, public corporations have been more and more interested in buying back their own shares, but the announcements have grossly exceeded the actual purchases.

click to enlarge

As shown, only 72% of the total authorizations were completed in 2008; and looking back further to the bear market of 2000, that number was closer to 50%. Authorizations were down sharply in 2008, and completed buybacks will likely follow the same trend.

Source: Buybacks: Not All They're Cracked Up to Be