February’s heightened volatility saw investors exit U.S. stocks at a near-record level of $41.1 billion, according to TrimTabs. That’s the third-largest exodus in the firm’s records. Most of the outflows came during the first half of the month, though, and reversed course by the final week of February. And echoing what other analysts have noted, the losses would have been a lot worse if it hadn’t been for corporate buybacks, which amounted to $151.1 billion for the month, which is a new record. Quarterly inflows are also on track to set a new record, now standing at around $212.5 billion. Insiders are currently forecasting that increased volatility is likely to stick around this year, but they also see the buyback trend continuing as companies will use extra cash stemming from the new tax cuts to reward shareholders. JPMorgan recently estimated corporate share repurchases could surpass $800 billion in 2018, which again would be a new record. Of course, there are some that disagree with this being a smart strategy. Private equity executive William Thorndike Jr., whose book “The Outsiders” chronicled Singleton’s Teledyne and six other companies that used buybacks to help drive spectacular stock performance, explained it like this back in 2014: Corporate America’s track record buying in stock is just horrendous. The prior peak occurred in the second half of 2007, the last market peak. The trough in corporate buyback activity? Early ’09.” For what it’s worth, the S&P 500 was at around 2,000 when he made those comments. Today, it is over 2,700. (Sources: BloombergView, Wall Street Journal)

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