US companies are returning cash to shareholders at a record pace — and that’s fueling everyone’s biggest fear about tax reform

When the GOP tax law was passed, Wall Street was very vocal about what US corporations should do with the mountain of proceeds coming their way.

Favor your workers and sink money back into your businesses, they said, worried that companies would instead spend the billions of dollars to boost their stock prices and reward shareholders.

If the latest figures are any indication, companies didn’t listen.

With a handful left to report, they’ve already set a new record for share buybacks, repurchasing $178 billion worth in the first quarter. On a trailing 12-month basis, corporations are now on pace to surpass $1 trillion in combined buybacks and dividends for the first time, according to data compiled by S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Digging further into the numbers, companies have spent $564 billion on buybacks and $428 billion on dividends over the past year, totaling $992 billion.

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