We’ve been tracking the remarkable surge of share buyback announcements by US companies this year for some time, and the pattern is now clear. The Trump tax cuts aren’t going into new investment — in fact, remarkably, investment has fallen in January in the US — but into share buybacks that reward shareholders and goose the share price to the advantage of company executives via their remuneration packages.

But what no one seems to have expected — not even critics of the tax cuts — are just how massive the rise in share buybacks actually is. JP Morgan analysts are now predicting that 2018 will see — by far — the highest level of share buybacks in US corporate history, smashing the previous record of 2007 and topping $840 billion. Even if actual buybacks come in a little under forecasts, as they have in recent years, it will still be a easily the biggest year in share buybacks ever.

It provides a reality check for the lies being peddled to crossbench senators by the Business Council — and repeated by media stenographers — that tax cuts will simply flow perfectly into new investment and wage rises. Sadly, you won’t read about the buyback bonanza in outlets like the Financial Review, where the topic is apparently verboten for Not Fitting The Narrative.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey