Posts Tagged ‘corporate balance sheets’

REGARDING THOSE “STRONG” CORPORATE BALANCE SHEETS

REGARDING THOSE “STRONG” CORPORATE BALANCE SHEETS

Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist 

Calculator and pencil on top of balance sheet

Brett Arends had an excellent piece on MarketWatch yesterday regarding the true state of US corporations.  You’ve probably heard the argument before that corporations are sitting on record piles of cash – their balance sheets are in immaculate condition. Right?  Wrong!  These comments are generally made without accounting for both sides of the ledger.  What is often ignored is that the total debts of these companies has also skyrocketed.  Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of this in the past when discussing corporate cash levels and Arends (rightfully) sets the record straight.  He notes that corporations are even worse off today (in terms of debt levels) than they were when the crisis began:

“American companies are not in robust financial shape. Federal Reserve data show that their debts have been rising, not falling. By some measures, they are now more leveraged than at any time since the Great Depression.

You’d think someone might have noticed something amiss. After all, we were simultaneously being told that companies (a) had more money than they know what to do with; (b) had even more money coming in due to a surge in profits; yet (c) they have been out in the bond market borrowing as fast as they can.

Does that sound a little odd to you?

A look at the facts shows that companies only have “record amounts of cash” in the way that Subprime Suzy was flush with cash after that big refi back in 2005. So long as you don’t look at the liabilities, the picture looks great. Hey, why not buy a Jacuzzi?

According to the Federal Reserve, nonfinancial firms borrowed another $289 billion in the first quarter, taking their total domestic debts to $7.2 trillion, the highest level ever. That’s up by $1.1 trillion since the first quarter of 2007; it’s twice the level seen in the late 1990s.”

This will also sound familiar to readers of John Hussman who has debunked the cash on the sidelines story more than once:

Interestingly, some observers lament that corporations and some individuals are holding their assets in “cash” rather than spending and investing those balances, apparently believing that this money is being “held back” from the economy. What


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See, I told You So (Again): Corporate Balance Sheets

Essentially, the giant piles of cash on corporate balance sheets are offset by similarly large liabilities (but few are writing about that). – Ilene

See, I told You So (Again): Corporate Balance Sheets

Courtesy of Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker 

No, really?

BOSTON — You may have heard recently that U.S. companies have emerged from the financial crisis in robust health, that they’ve paid down their debts, rebuilt their balance sheets and are sitting on growing piles of cash they are ready to invest in the economy.

It all sounds wonderful for investors and the U.S. economy. There’s just one problem: It’s a crock.

Yep.

Again, back to the charts:

See the blue section?  Yep.

$10.9 trillion, to be precise.

To be fair, it is down some from the peak, which was $11.16 trillion in Q4/2008.  But the recent low, that is $10.9 trillion recorded in Q4/2009, is now up by close to $300 billion.

So when you hear "record cash", you have to subtract back out the liabilities.  At least you do if you’re being honest, which none of the mainstream media clowns are.

Let’s look at this with a bit different perspective via charts:

There’s your "growth" in non-financial business credit. 

Now let’s compare against stock prices to see whether leverage is "reasonably reflected" in them….

 

Uhhhhh… that’s not so good…..

Specifically, notice that during the "climb out" from the 2002 dump leverage continually increased.  That is, while prices roughly doubled so did total outstanding business credit. The problem with this progression is that you only get benefit from that if you can profitably employ the credit you have out.

When equities dove then and only then did businesses cut back – and not much! And now, with the nice little rampjob from the lows, businesses have stopped de-leveraging.

Into excess capacity this is suicidal and is one of the (many) reasons that I say that equity valuations are dramatically unattractive at the present time. De-leveraging grossly compresses multiples, which serves to amplify the damage that comes from debt service that is required on non-productive borrowed funds.

"The street" talks about how "debt markets have pretty much returned to health" (other than securitized mortgages and similar things.) Sure they have – for the snakes on Wall Street, who are back to their asset-stripping and…
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Insider Scoop

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Philip R. Davis is a founder Phil's Stock World, a stock and options trading site that teaches the art of options trading to newcomers and devises advanced strategies for expert traders...

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