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Stephen Gandel

Steady Breeze of Stock Buybacks Wanes for Market

Bulls can't rely on this particular wind at their back any longer.
Photographer: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

A crucial tail wind for the stock market's continued bull market appears to be losing its gale. And the one hope to whip it up again is looking increasingly less likely.

Stock buybacks, after years of steadily increasing, are on the retreat. According to S&P Dow Jones Indices, companies in the S&P 500 spent roughly $120 billion on stock repurchases in the second three months of 2017. It's not a huge decrease from a year ago, but it's the fifth consecutive quarter in which the trailing 12-month figure for buybacks has dropped, the first time that's happened since the market meltdown in the Great Recession.