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Buybacks Surging to Four-Year High With S&P Valuations Lower

U.S. companies are buying back the most stock in four years, taking advantage of record-high cash levels and low interest rates to purchase equities at valuations 15 percent cheaper than when the credit crisis began.

Corporations have authorized more than $453 billion in repurchases this year, putting 2011 on track for the third-highest annual total behind 2006 and 2007, data through Nov. 11 compiled by Birinyi Associates Inc. show. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. bought shares for the first time, and Amgen Inc. sold debt to fund its buyback. U.S. companies spent 70 percent more on their stock last quarter than a year ago, according to financial filings as of Nov. 11.