NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Companies looking to boost their stock price may want to spend money on new factories or development of new products versus relying on share buybacks, according to Bank of America (BAC) - Get Report.
A panel of Bank of America strategists and research analysts covered all aspects of the global economy during the company's semi-annual update on the economy and markets on Tuesday. Despite their disparate areas of expertise, they appeared to reach consensus on one area: share buybacks no longer produce excess returns.
Instead, companies looking to boost returns may want to increase their capital expenditures, or capex. It may even be a move that's needed as spending has lagged in this area and equipment may be due for an upgrade.
Share buybacks have faced much scrutiny in recent years. Critics say buybacks provide a temporary boost to returns while potentially masking problems with a company's fundamentals. They suggest investments in research and development or capital expenditures that would help grow a company will provide more meaningful returns.
However, capital expenditures can be perceived as risky to management firms, Savita Subramanian, Bank of America's head of U.S. Equity and Quantitative Strategy said during a question and answer segment. She explained the perception of capex or R&D spending that failed to deliver desired returns could be damaging to a company. Meanwhile, she noted, buybacks are perceived as less risky.
While the perception may be that buybacks are a more certain way to bolster returns, Subramanian has found the tide for buybacks turned. In a note from early 2014, Subramanian said investors may see capex spending as a true commitment to company growth.
"Historically, companies that spend high amounts on capital investment have underperformed those that spend low amounts, by various measures that we have tested. However, this year, trends have reversed abruptly," Subramanian said in March 2014. "This signals that market participants may be rewarding capex, it being the rare signal of a commitment to growth or a sign of higher than anticipated demand."
For its part, in March 2015, Bank of America announced plans to buy back $4 billion of its stock.