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President Biden calls out stock buybacks in State of the Union address

Just as stock buyback activity heats up as some execs look for easy ways to pump up sagging stock prices, President Joe Biden is pushing back.

"Corporations ought to do the right thing," Biden said in Tuesday night's State of the Union address. "That’s why I propose we quadruple the tax on corporate stock buybacks and encourage long-term investments. They’ll still make considerable profit."

Corporations are back to aggressively buying back stock after taking a pause late in 2022 with markets under considerable pressure. Buying back stock has the effect of reducing shares outstanding, thereby often lifting net profits — which is the lifeblood of stock prices.

Companies have unveiled an astounding $173.5 billion in planned buybacks so far in 2023. That's more than double the pace seen at this time last year, according to the latest data from EPFR TrimTabs.

President Joe Biden talks with Vice President Kamala Harris after the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS
President Joe Biden talks with Vice President Kamala Harris after the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS

The big buyback announcements this year have come from a who's who of corporate titans flush with cash and visions for a higher stock price.

Meta — dealing with sagging profits due to weakness in the ad market — raised its buyback authorization to $40 billion after purchasing about $28 billion in stock last year.

Oil beasts Chevron and Exxon — both frequent targets by the Democrats — have announced new $75 billion and $35 billion buyback plans, respectively. Chevron and Exxon each spent roughly $15 billion buying back their stock in 2022.

And on Tuesday, social media giant Pinterest announced a new $500 million share repurchase authorization (more on that in the video above).

Despite the push from POTUS, most pros agree a buyback tax is unlikely to pass anytime soon.

"This will not happen, but it shows the Administration is bullish on this particular policy tool when it comes to future revenue debates, and also indicates that populist rhetoric around corporate profits will persist," said EvercoreISI political strategist Tobin Marcus in a client note.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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