Understanding Shares Outstanding
Shares outstanding are the total shares of a company that investors own. Shares outstanding over time are an interesting metric to track over the long term. An increasing number of shares outstanding indicates dilution of the company, i.e company is selling more stock to the public or creating more stock to issue to employees etc.
On the other hand a decreasing number of shares outstanding indicates that a company is returning capital to investors by way of purchasing their own stock and extinguishing them. The caveat being capital is destroyed if buybacks are carried out at a price higher than fair value. To track this metric I've plotted shares outstanding data over the past three years for the S & P 500. To access that search for a ticker and get the shares outstanding plot.
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