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More spent on S&P 500 buybacks than all 2018 R&D

Data: S&P Global, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Axios Visuals

Total research and development spending in the U.S. last year totaled $608 billion, according to data from the Federal Reserve, while corporations in the S&P 500 spent $806 billion buying back their own stock. The total for all companies was well over $1 trillion.

What it means: In 2018, the 500 biggest U.S. companies spent 33% more on their stock buyback programs than the country is investing in research and development.

  • The trend looks to be continuing this year as the U.S. is on pace to spend $642 billion on R&D in 2019 and poised to surpass last year's $1.085 trillion total in buyback spending.

Go deeper: The S&P 500's Q1 earnings were a pleasant surprise