NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Buybacks came back in a big way in 2011.
According to data from Birinyi Associates, public companies announced $534 billion worth of stock repurchase authorizations in 2011. That total is up 43% from $373 billion in 2010, and it represents the third largest amount on record behind $863 billion in 2007 and $655 billion in 2006.
December saw a total of $43 billion in authorizations announced. All told, 1,164 new buyback programs were announced last year vs. 848 in 2010, according to Birinyi.
2011's total was more than three times the $125 billion amount seen in 2009 when the corporate America was hit with the full brunt of the financial crisis.The sector that announced the most buyback authorizations was one of 2011's weakest from an equity performance standpoint: The financials with 233 programs. Healthcare companies took the prize in dollar terms, announcing $95 billion worth of authorizations, 18% of the total. Announcing a buyback was generally positive for share performance but it didn't exactly inspire a rush to purchase by investors. "The top ten authorizations year-to-date have returned, on average, 0.45% on a one-day basis and were up 70% of the time," Birinyi said. The companies announcing the biggest programs of the year were Walt Disney (DIS), which went on the record with a $16 billion authorization in May; and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wal-Mart Stores, which both unveiled $15 billion programs in mid-March and early June respectively. Intel (INTC), whose 15.4% share gain in 2011 was eighth best within the Dow Jones Industrial Average, announced two separate $10 billion authorizations during the year, one on Jan. 24 and one on Oct. 18. Rounding out the top ten were Conocophillips (COP), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Amgen (AMGN) with $10 billion authorizations; Goldman Sachs (GS) with a $9.7 billion repurchase program; and IBM (IBM) at $8 billion. Thursday saw its own big buyback announcement from Target (TGT), which said before the opening bell that its board has approved an additional $5 billion repurchase program to commence once it completes its current $10 billion authorization early this year. --Written by Michael Baron in New York.
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