Companies give up on stock buybacks

Back when the stock market was booming, companies were buying back shares at a record pace -- often taking on debt to do it. Now corporate profits are down, balance sheets are weak -- and companies are putting a halt to share buybacks at the exact time when their stock might just be a good deal.

BusinessWeek reports that "According to Standard & Poor's, companies in the S&P 500 index bought back just $30.8 billion in stock in the first quarter of 2009, down 73% from a year before, even though stocks were arguably unbeatable bargains at the time. In March, the S&P 500 hit its lowest level in more than a decade. "