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Showing posts with label Joanna Slater The Globe and Mail. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joanna Slater The Globe and Mail. Show all posts

July 8, 2010

American businesses are uncertain about Obama's Plans for Business

I commented that I was shocked by my trip to Boston and the lawyers' and private equity's anger with government, particularly as this city would be voters for the current government. (I get tired of the obsession with Obama - it's his team too.) Even the Harvard Business Review online is bringing up "leadership lessons" directed right at Obama--which surprises me. Niall Ferguson, my favourite money expert, was on CNN talking about how American businesses are hoarding cash, not spending. And why would you hire people if you do not know the consequences of cost or maybe new rules around reducing work force and so forth. As I said before, it's a business owners's summit needed, not a job summit.
Anyway, it is clear that there is terrible uncertainty being created by Washington--where they are more lawyers and, apparently, zero business leaders or MBAs. Lack of business appreciation does create a narrower world view and when the goose is unsettled, the goose is not going to lay the golden eggs to pay for all those big union jobs. Washington needs to get to terms with this and fast.
Perhaps CNN was on in Joanna Slater's home too and she writes in The Globe & Mail:
For a clue to Corporate America’s state of mind, look no further than the piles of money stashed under its mattress. Facing an uncertain economic environment, U.S. firms have socked away cash at a rapid clip, amassing a rainy-day fund the likes of which hasn’t been seen in over 40 years. At the end of March, non-financial firms had accumulated a record $1.84-trillion (U.S.) in cash and other liquid assets on their balance sheets, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Federal Reserve Board. As a percentage of total company assets, which include factories and other investments, cash is at its highest level since the early 1960s.

When and where companies decide to use their stockpile will be a key factor in the strength of the recovery. If companies feel confident enough to invest in new equipment or make acquisitions, it will spur economic activity and hiring. If they remain anxious, such decisions will be delayed, dampening overall growth.
Such hoarding can’t go on forever. Companies that keep piles of cash sitting in the bank earning razor-thin interest rates will eventually face the ire of investors, who will demand that the money be put to better use or returned to shareholders. Two options: paying higher dividends or buying back shares.

Here are some of the more interesting comments:
 Companies use to use lines of credit or short term loans for regular operating expenses, so they didn’t need to keep such high levels of cash, but now a great majority of US banks are effectively bankrupt and lines of credit and short-term loans are all but impossible to obtain, even for the largest and most successful companies. This is why companies now must keep a high level of cash just to be able to meet financing needs for daily operations. There is no “EXCESS” hoarding of cash as this article suggests, that is just silly. 
Canadian banks see a huge market for lines of credits to American businesses and this is why our 4 big banks have huge expansion plans for the US. The American banks are dead, they are broke, so Canadian banks will move in to fill a need there. This article is off base. Yes, corporate cash is up. Corporate long term debt is slightly below record highs. This another smoke and mirror article by someone that doesn't do their homework. Corporate America is swimming debt. They have a little more cash in one pocket and a huge liability in the other. Go ahead and cheer for a day or two. It's a mess of debt out there. The party is going to end in tears.