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Tech buybacks lead S&P

Apple Inc. kept up its share-buyback ways in 2016, purchasing $33.7 billion of its stock throughout the year. The tech company purchased $37.1 billion in 2015. General Electric Co. bought back $21.4 billion during the year, a significant increase from 2015, when the company bought back $1.7 billion.

Pension funds own approximately 3.5% of outstanding Apple stock and about 4% of General Electric stock. Pension fund ownership of GE stock increased about 75 basis points in 2016.

Share buybacks by companies in the S&P 500 index totaled $536.4 billion in 2016, down from $572.2 billion in the prior year. Dividends paid totaled $397.2 billion. Annual buyback and dividend yields were 2.9% and 2.2%, respectively.

The technology sector, notably Apple and Microsoft Corp., led the major sector groups in buybacks, followed by financials and health care.