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By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Total U.S. corporate stock buybacks are on track to hit a record for the third quarter as the U.S. economy bounced back from the global pandemic and chief executives became less fearful of spending cash.
S&P 500 companies in recent weeks have disclosed buybacks totaling $145 billion for the third quarter, and the total is likely to surpass $224 billion by the time all reports are in, Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said on Tuesday.
That would be above the $223 billion in buybacks recorded in the fourth quarter of 2018, which was a record, he said.
Share repurchases are seen as supportive for stocks in general. They decrease the number of a company's shares outstanding, boosting per share earnings and driving down the price-to-earnings ratio, a key valuation benchmark.
Still, stock prices have gone up, and that's impacting the number of shares companies can buy back, Silverblatt said.
The S&P 500, which hit a record high on Tuesday, is up about 23% for the year to date.
Strategists expect companies will continue to spend high levels of cash in 2022, a trend that should help to support stocks.
Goldman Sachs strategists wrote in a recent note that cash balances have surged in the last 12 months, and they are projecting S&P 500 buybacks to grow by 8% in 2022 after 50% growth in 2021.
Among recent big announcements, Exxon Mobil last Friday vowed to revive its long-dormant share repurchase program next year.
(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Stephen Coates)