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Expand chart
Data: S&P Dow Jones Indices; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Over the past few years the fire beneath Apple's red-hot stock price has largely been stock buybacks. The company has dwarfed other companies in terms of the number and amount of buybacks last year and for the past decade.

Driving the news: S&P Dow Jones Indices announced Monday that S&P 500 companies bought back $806.4 billion worth of their own shares, including $223 billion in just the fourth quarter in 2018.

Of that record total, Apple bought back $10.1 billion worth of its own stock in Q4 and $74.2 billion for the year, more than a third of the entire S&P 500 total. The closest company to that total was Oracle, which spent $29.3 billion.

  • Over the past decade, Apple has bought back more than $260.4 billion of its own shares. The No. 2 company on the buybacks list is Microsoft, which has bought back less than half that amount, $118.5 billion.

Between the lines: Companies have shown a very clear preference for buybacks over dividends so far this decade, with a major uptick in this trend in 2018 after the passage of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act.

  • Dividend spending was $27 billion below buybacks in the fourth quarter of 2017. In Q4 2018, companies spent $103 billion more on buybacks than dividends.

Further buyback numbers announced by S&P Dow Jones on Monday:

  • Q4 is the fourth consecutive quarterly record for stock buybacks, which is the longest streak in the 20 years SPDJI has been tracking buybacks.
  • The record $806.4 billion spent on buybacks in 2018 shatters the previous record of $589.1 billion set in 2007.

Go deeper

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sydney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.