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Exclusive: Tech again leads 2019 buybacks toward record

Data: Mike Schoonover, Catalyst Funds; Chart: Axios Visuals

IT companies are again on pace to spend the most on stock buybacks this year, as the total looks set to pass 2018's $1.085 trillion record total.

By the numbers: Companies so far have spent $272 billion on buybacks, data compiled by Mike Schoonover, COO of Catalyst Funds, for Axios shows.

Between the lines: The amount of spending on buybacks announced by companies in the IT sector has fallen significantly this year as other industries, particularly energy and industrials, have picked up the slack. Companies in those sectors have about doubled their percentage of announced buybacks.

  • The top 5 sectors for buybacks this year accounted for 76% of the total. Last year, the top 5 sectors accounted for 82%, led by IT, financials, health care, consumer discretionary and industrials, respectively.

Interestingly, buyback spending has not coincided with market performance for most sectors.

  • IT companies, which announced the most ($369 billion) buyback spending last year and this year ($53 billion), have seen the biggest rise in 1-year return among S&P 500 sectors, up 22.5%, according to data from Fidelity.
  • However, financials, which last year accounted for 20% of completed buybacks ($186 billion) and 9% this year ($24 billion), have been the third-worst performer among the S&P's 11 sectors, delivering a 1-year return of just 0.23%.
  • The real estate sector accounted for just 1% of share buybacks in both 2018 and 2019 but has seen a 19.5% gain in the last year, trailing only IT.