Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N), the fourth-largest U.S. bank by assets, said its board had increased its stock repurchase authorization by 200 million shares.
San Francisco-based Wells last increased its authorization to repurchase shares in March 2011. At the end of June, it had the remaining ability to buy back 56 million shares, according to its latest quarterly filing.
Wells is one of the large U.S. banks that needs to pass an annual Federal Reserve stress test before returning capital to shareholders in the form of increased dividends or stock buybacks.
After its most recent stress test in March, the bank said its capital plan called for a higher level of common stock repurchases in 2012 versus 2011. Banks are preparing for another round of stress tests that begin in January.
The bank this month said it bought 17 million shares in the third quarter and planned to buy another 9 million in a transaction that settles in the fourth quarter. Wells spokesman Ancel Martinez declined to comment further on the bank's stock buying plans.
The bank has about 5.3 billion shares outstanding.
Shares of the company were down 1.5 percent at $33.99 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The lender reported a record third-quarter profit earlier this month.
(Reporting by Jochelle Mendonca in Bangalore and Rick Rothacker in Charlotte, N.C.; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)