S&P 500 companies more than doubled their stock repurchases in the third quarter.

While many businesses held off on buybacks during the recession, repurchases appear to be on the rise again now that signs are emerging that economic conditions are improving.

Standard & Poor's said Monday that buybacks surged to $79.56 billion in the third quarter from $34.85 billion a year earlier, making it the fifth straight quarter of increased repurchases.

Information technology companies, including Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp., made up 28.6 percent of all buybacks, while health care companies repurchased less stock than in the prior-year period.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. also made large buybacks in the quarter.

Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P indexes predicts a slight rise in fourth-quarter buybacks.

Stock buybacks lower a company's shares outstanding, raising earnings per share and expanding the percentage size of shareholders' stakes.