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Pumping a trillion dollars into the bid side of the secondary trading market

 

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Source: Dow Jones MarketWatch, August 7, 2018 article

Stock market to get $1 trillion boost via buybacks, says Goldman

Published: Aug 7, 2018 10:02 a.m. ET

Tech and internet-related stocks likely to be biggest beneficiaries of generous buyback programs

MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto

It is raining buybacks.
 

 

By

SUE

CHANG


Markets reporter

 

 

The stock market’s new buzzy number is $1,000,000,000,000. And after one prominent tech giant hit that market-value milestone last week, the 13-digit figure may hold a different level of resonance for the broader market in terms of share buybacks.

Indeed, analysts at Goldman Sachs project that stock repurchases will reach $1 trillion this year, up 46% from 2017 on the back of tax reform and strong corporate cash flows. And investors are likely to see immediate the impact of those repurchases as August tends to be the most popular month for buybacks. The month usually accounts for 13% of such deals for the year, Goldman says.

“More than 80% of firms in the S&P 500 have reported results and may resume repurchasing stock on a discretionary basis after being on hiatus for the past month,” said David Kostin, chief U.S. equity strategist at Goldman Sachs, in a note released Monday.

Kostin is referring to a so-called blackout period in which companies cease repurchasing their shares ahead of announcing their latest quarterly financial updates to avoid running afoul of regulatory disclosure rules.

Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, also noted that buybacks are occurring at a more accelerated pace.

“Buybacks are again running stronger than expected,” he said.

Second-quarter repurchases are up 57% from the same period a year earlier, with notable activity in the tech sector where buybacks surged 130% year-over-year, according to Silverblatt.

Going forward, buybacks are expected to play a critical role in supporting prices as big investors such as mutual funds and pension funds have been net sellers, Kostin said.

The Goldman strategist maintains his year-end S&P 500 forecast of 2,850 which suggests that the market is largely expected to be rangebound until the end of the year although he projected a 12-month target of 2,925.

Aside from buybacks, the big picture favors the market.

Kostin projected economic activity to remain healthy with consumer sentiment at its highest in nearly 20 years. That confidence has translated to robust corporate results with a large number of companies turning in better-than-expected earnings.

“With 81% of S&P 500 firms reported, second-quarter sales rose by 12% and earnings per share increased by 24% vs. last year. 56% of companies have beaten consensus EPS by at least a standard deviation of estimates, the highest rate since 2010,” he said.

He also dismissed concerns among some analysts that stocks are headed for a correction, defined as a drop of at least 10% from a recent peak, as well as the growing belief that the technology and internet-related sector will be the broader market’s undoing.

“The bears argue that positioning in the sector is ‘crowded,’ the sector is overvalued, growth has peaked, and second-quarter results will lead to a sharp decline in long-term growth prospects, with devastating consequences for stocks as highlighted by the plunge in Facebook shares after it cut guidance last week,” he said.

Facebook Inc. FB last month came under extreme pressure with the stock losing more than 15% from its record on July 25 after it issued a disappointing outlook. Facebook’s meltdown was followed by Twitter Inc. TWTR which saw its stock tumble nearly 30% after releasing weak earnings. The dramatic decline in the two high-profile names led to a closer scrutiny of the sector and sparked concerns that technology stocks have hit a temporary growth wall.

Not so, said Kostin.

“The rate of earnings growth has certainly peaked as the surge in profits from the initial cut in tax rate was always going to be most pronounced in 2018. And glamour ‘one decision’ stocks often disappoint investors when the lofty growth rates embedded in valuations turn out to be unachievable. But since the start of the second-quarter earnings season, the consensus forecast for 2019 tech sector EPS has actually increased by 1%,” he said.

Tech stocks are expected to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the $1 trillion-buyback bonanza given many tech companies still have yet to complete their existing repurchase programs.

For its part. Apple Inc. AAPL which achieved its milestone as the first U.S. company with a $1 trillion market cap last Thursday, in May approved a new $100 billion repurchase program.

 

Sue Chang is a MarketWatch reporter in San Francisco.

 

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