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How Much Will Apple, Inc. Spend Repurchasing Its Stock This Quarter?

Companies have a number of ways they can spend their excess cash, including acquiring companies, paying dividends, and repurchasing shares. Tech giant Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) does all of these. But it spends far more repurchasing shares than it does making acquisitions or paying cash to shareholders. Indeed, since the company initiated a dividend and share-repurchase program in 2012, it has bought back a whopping $127 billion worth of Apple stock.

With $48 billion of its $175 billion authorized for share repurchases left after the end of its fiscal third quarter, how many shares could Apple repurchase in fiscal Q4?

Estimating Apple's Q4 share repurchases

The best way to guess how many shares Apple could repurchase this quarter is to look back at how much Apple has been spending on repurchases recently.

In fiscal Q3, Apple repurchased about $10 billion worth of its own shares. While this is a huge sum, it's notably about in line with the company's average spending on repurchases since April 2013, when Apple gave its capital return program its first of four significant annual boosts to date. And repurchases haven't cooled off recently; in the four quarters leading up to Apple's most recent quarter, the company...