Here's how to help investors reduce their expectations for what buybacks can do. (Photo: Getty)

Stock buybacks have been a big driver of the bull market in U.S. equities of the past seven years.

According to Yardeni Research, S&P 500 companies bought back $3.0 trillion of their own stock from 2009 through the first quarter of 2016. In dollar value, this buyback binge now has far exceeded the previous one that began in 2004 and peaked in 2007, just before the S&P 500 came crashing down.

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