Are Businesses Quietly Preparing for a Financial Apocalypse?
By Dan Steinhart, Casey Research
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
US corporations are sitting on more cash than at any point since World War 2.
That’s without including banks. I’m only talking about nonfinancial corporations – the ones that sell goods and services and make the economy go.
Those businesses hold $1.4 trillion. In absolute terms, that’s the most ever. In relative terms, it’s the most since World War II.
As investors, we can infer quite a bit from corporations’ inability (or unwillingness) to deploy their cash.
For one, it indicates that business have assumed a very defensive stance.
Cash, of course, is a buffer against uncertainty – the uncertainty that business slows for any reason. Management wants a healthy cash reserve with which to pay the bills and remain liquid should anything unexpected happen. I think we can all agree that this is prudent, and a good business practice.
But $1.4 trillion? That tells me that businesses are not just a little jittery about the future. They’re prepared for an apocalypse.
Think about this, it’s important;
If these businesses could conjure up even the most marginal of projects to earn a meager 1% return, they would generate $14 billion profit. Instead, they’re sitting on the cash and earning near zero for a guaranteed after-inflation loss.
It’s a bad omen that corporate management would forego a collective $14b per year. Clearly, by their judgment, the risk of investing in new projects outweighs the reward – the exact opposite of the conditions needed to produce healthy economic growth.