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U.S. Companies Healthy, but Hoarding

U.S. corporations have a higher share of cash on their balance sheets than at any point in almost a half century, the Federal Reserve reported on September 16th.   Businesses appear to be building up buffers rather than hiring or investing in new plants.  Non-financial companies held more than $2 trillion in cash and other liquid assets as of the end of June, up more than $88 billion from the end of the first quarter of this year.  Cash accounted for 7.1% of all company assets (everything from hard assets to investments) which is the highest level in 48 years.  The figures released by the Federal Reserve do not take into account the additional and substantial cash reserves held at many U.S. companies’ foreign subsidiaries – which would be taxed if repatriated to the United States.  These figures are continued evidence of the healthy financial position of Corporate America.  Ultimately this has positive implications for the U.S. economy, but in the immediate term, it is confirmation that the Fed’s intended consequence of low interest rates – to spur riskier pursuits like investment and hiring – is not yet playing out.

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