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US wallows in debt but its firms hoard $2 trillion in cash

Tuesday August 09, 2011 12:43:00 PM, Arun Kumar, IANS

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Washington: Corporate America led by Citibank, headed by Indian American chief executive Vikram Pandit, is sitting on a colossal $2 trillion in cash. Of this, $1.4 trillion is accounted for by the Standard & Poor's top 20 companies, their strong performance disconnected from the debt-ridden reality of the world's largest economy.

Citigroup topped with $526 billion in cash, followed by JP Morgan Chase with $414 billion and Wells Fargo with $112 billion in the second and third places, according to S&P figures.

"It's enormous by historical standards," Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P was quoted as saying by the New York Post, describing the staggering scale of the unspent corporate bundle.

"The $963 billion is more than the recent government incentive and stimulus spending."

Excluding customer-deposit-rich financial institutions-which need to have assets to offset deposits-an astounding $963 billion is held in cash and cash-equivalents (money market accounts and T-bills, for example) alone at the S&P 500 industrial companies.

Among the top 20 industrials as measured by market cap in the S&P - companies that include Exxon Mobil, Apple and Walmart - there's about $400 billion in cash on hand, according to S&P.

There are two conflicting pictures. Silverblatt said the overall strong performance of S&P companies is disconnected from the reality of the US economy.

"Companies have been able to come through this very nicely with good cash, good earnings, low interest rates and by managing their debt," Silverblatt said. "On the other hand, companies have not hired, and are not planning expansion."

The finds come against the backdrop of a historic downgrade of America's top notch AAA credit rating by S&P last week, and subsequent warning by its top executive that continued political gridlock in Washington could contribute to another reduction.

The downgrade had sent the global markets into a tailspin, causing a huge intra-day fall in the Indian stock markets as well, before Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the domestic economy remained strong and talked the indices up.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at




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