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More U.S. companies hoarding cash


U.S. companies were sitting on $1.93 trillion in cash and other liquid assets at the end of September, up from $1.8 trillion at the end of June, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The cash buildup by nonfinancial institutions reflects the cautious approach many companies are taking to the expansion of plants and equipment and hiring of workers as tough economic conditions remain.

According to the Federal Reserve, cash accounted for 7.4 percent of companies’ total assets, the largest proportion since 1959.

And though low interest rates may stop companies from realizing large returns on their investments, many see few opportunities to creatively deploy their cash.

“The corporate sector is looking at the household sector and saying, ‘This is not the environment where we should expand our business,’” said Torsten Slok, an economist with Deutsche Bank.

However, according to the Fed’s data, the total net worth of U.S. households jumped $1.2 trillion to $54.9 trillion in the third quarter from the second quarter, as declining home values were offset by increasing stock market wealth.

At its peak in 2007, the net worth of U.S. households was $65.7 trillion.

Businesses could help boost the economy if they begin spending their cash on new plants, equipment and employees, but are hesitant to do so in the wake of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

That reflects the conservative attitude adopted by many nonfinancial companies following the 2000 dot-com bust, which helped them weather the most recent recession.

“They did well by being conservative,” said Brian Bethune, an economist with IHS Global Insight. “Why would they depart from that?”

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