Stock repurchases among S&P 500 companies jumped to $475.6B in 2013, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices, up 19% from the previous year, and the largest amount since $589.1B in 2007. "I expect this trend of greater shareholder return to continue throughout 2014," says S&P's Howard Silverblatt, noting 401 companies within the S&P 500 reported buybacks in 2013, with 339 also paying a dividend.
Things have slowed bit this year, with $80B authorized in February, a 32% decline from February 2013's record pace.
Thus far, investors are rewarding companies executing repurchases, sending the S&P Buyback Index higher by 31% over the past year vs. 23% for the S&P 500. Skeptics now include BlackRock chief Larry Fink, who this week sent a letter to all S&P 500 CEOs, warning them about going for the short-term boost of buybacks.