Friday, March 30, 2012

Buybacks Decline Along With Earnings In Q4 2011

Standard & Poor's fourth quarter 2011 preliminary buyback report for the S&P 500 Index shows buybacks declined in Q4 along with reported earnings. Preliminary earnings were reported at $186.76 in Q4 2011 versus $206.08 in Q3 2011 and $187.67 billion in Q4 2010, while buybacks declined to $91.46 billion versus $118.41 billion in the prior quarter.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

S&P's Howard Silverblatt, Senior Index Analyst, notes,
“Companies appear to have finally gotten it right with average share prices declining 14.3% during the third quarter of 2011, companies poured $118 billion into stock buybacks (the most since the heydays of 2007), buying back shares at reduced prices. With depressed prices, companies were able to scoop up additional shares, which reduced the number needed for year-end employee options. In the fourth quarter, with share prices increasing an average of 11.2%, they pulled back.”
I would agree with S&P that it is better for companies to buyback shares at the lower prices reached in Q3 last year. However, this buyback volume can distort reported earnings per share and mask weakness in earnings growth. With fewer shares, earnings growth on a per share basis will be higher than actual corporate earnings growth. Bloomberg reports, the buyback activity reduced Standard & Poor’s 500 Index divisor, a measure of outstanding shares, by 0.6 percent last quarter, the first drop since March 2009.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

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