In wake of Trump tax bill, companies have raced to buy back their own stock

  • Companies have announced $88.6 billion in stock buybacks since Jan. 1, more than double the $40.3 billion reported last year in the same period, according to Birinyi Associates.
  • This year's year-to-date total is the second-largest amount for that period since 2009.
Traders react after the closing bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Traders react after the closing bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Corporate buyback announcements have surged in the weeks since President Donald Trump signed a sweeping corporate tax overhaul into law.

Companies have announced $88.6 billion in stock buybacks so far this year, more than double the amount in the same period last year, according to data provided by Birinyi Associates.

The tax bill dramatically cut the corporate tax rate, from 35 percent to 21 percent, and took aim at rules that had made it preferable for companies to stash foreign earnings overseas rather than spend them at home.

Democratic lawmakers who have been critical of the GOP bill have claimed it would be used for such things as share buybacks to enrich shareholders, rather than for capital expenditures or improving worker pay.

So far this year, 61 companies announced buybacks in a size that dwarfs the $40.3 billion from 58 companies announced last year between Jan. 1 and Feb. 6.

This year's total is the second-highest amount announced in the same year-to-date period, going back to 2009, the first year of the bull market. It was topped only by the $104.8 billion in 2016, when 127, more than twice as many companies, announced buybacks during a turbulent stock market sell-off.

This year's total includes the very large, $22.6 billion buyback announced by Wells Fargo. Among the largest buybacks in the 2017 period were Comcast's $7 billion buyback and $5 billion each from General Motors and Lowe's Cos.

Birinyi has kept an extensive database of stock buybacks going back to 1985, and in response to a CNBC request, provided information on buyback announcements since Jan. 1. The buybacks reflect the share repurchase announcements made by companies since Trump signed the tax bill into law on Dec. 22. There were none announced during the final week of the year.

"We're seeing a significant increase this year versus the same period of last year. In 2016, you saw a correction in the market, and companies came in and used the weakness to buy back their stock," said Jeff Rubin, Birinyi director of research. "2016 was the largest in this bull market."

Besides Wells Fargo, companies announcing buybacks this year include Amgen, with $10 billion; Alphabet, $8.6 billion; Visa, $7.5 billion, eBay, $6 billion; Mondelez, $6 billion; Lowe's Cos, $5 billion; Valero, $2.5 billion, and Eastman Chemical, at $2 billion.

In the 2016 period, some of the larger buybacks came from Wells Fargo, with $16.8 billion; McDonald's at $15 billion; Gilead at $12 billion, and Schlumberger and 3M, both at $10 billion.

Birinyi values the buybacks based on share prices at the time of the announcements.

Corporate buybacks year-to-date as of Feb. 6

2009 $4.3 billion

2010 $21 billion

2011 $62.1 billion

2012 $27.8 billion

2013 $47.3 billion

2014 $75.8 billion

2015 $68.9 billion

2016 $104.8 billion

2017 $40.3 billion

2018 $88.6 billion

Source: Birinyi Associates