Dividends and Buybacks are Flat… Just Like the Market

March 17, 2016

Following the recession, dividends and stock repurchases had a significant run, growing about 28% per year, reaching a new record of $241 billion in March 2014. While dividends continue to grow, buybacks have fallen in the last 18 months, leaving the combined total mostly flat. Not surprisingly, the market has also been relatively flat over the last year and a half.

Stock buybacks reduce the amount of shares outstanding for a company which causes earnings per share (EPS) to increase since the same amount of earnings over fewer shares outstanding creates a higher EPS value. EPS is a metric used in the determination of stock price, so a higher EPS value provides support for the stock price to appreciate in the near term. 

A significant source of funding for stock buybacks in recent years came from the ability to borrow at short-term rates near zero. As interest rates continue to rise, companies will be less inclined to fund buybacks in this manner. While buybacks are estimated to be higher for the first quarter of 2016, going forward they could be scaled back significantly, which would be a further drag on equity returns.

The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

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