The more than 80% of firms in the S&P 500 that have reported results for the first quarter repurchased $180 billion worth of their own stock during that time, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices, on pace to be the second-highest amount on record based on data going back to 1998. While data isn’t yet available for the second quarter, companies ramped up buying during the two previous market pullbacks.
Every quarter in 2018 marked a new high, as companies were bolstered with money they saved because of corporate tax cuts. The most buybacks in one quarter, a staggering $223 billion, came in the last three months of last year when broader markets spiraled. Buybacks also hit a record in the first quarter of 2018 when markets sold off.