Companies are returning cash to investors at a level never before seen. Does the historically high level of cash being returned to shareholders crowd out the use of cash elsewhere? One wide-spread concern is that by shelling out cash through dividends and share buybacks, companies are spending less on capital expenditures. Is that a real concern?
Companies are returning cash to investors at a level never before seen. Counting dividend payouts and outstanding share repurchases, the amount of cash returned back to investors crossed the $1 trillion mark for the first time in January 2016 (based on trailing twelve-months’ total for the largest 500 companies, Chart 1).
Share repurchases have been a major driver in the extension of the bull market, but this month’s “Of Special Interest” outlines several factors which are likely to contribute to a deceleration in corporate repurchase activity over the next several quarters.