When tallying up the total cash sitting inside corporations in America, there are a few things to consider. First is that this generally pertains to non-financial companies because banks and other regulated financial companies have to keep so much cash in reserves. Then there is the notion of what amount of a company’s total cash balance that is actually domiciled in the United States.
A fresh look from Moody’s Investors Service is forecasting that non-financial companies which are U.S.-based and which are rated by Moody’s will end 2016 with roughly $1.77 trillion. That would be up from a total cash balance of $1.68 trillion at the end of 2015. This would mark a gain of more than 5.3% if it works out that way.
As you have probably heard, most of this cash is being held overseas. Moody’s estimates that the amount of overseas cash will reach about $1.3 trillion, which is roughly 74% of this total cash. That would be versus $1.2 trillion, or 72% of total cash, in 2015.
24/7 Wall St. would point out here how easy this is to turn into a political bash, or a bash about corporate greed. This is one of those situations where the public view, and the politicians debating these in the public, are universally neither right nor universally wrong.
The reality is that this topic of overseas cash is far more complex in action and in reaching a solution than most people consider. Major U.S. companies are almost universally so large because of their overseas sales activities. After all, the U.S. is a market of 320+ million people, versus just over 7 billion people outside of the United States. Those same sales have to generally occur in organizations and companies which are legally operating in each of those foreign companies.
Moody’s has shown now that corporate cash holdings have risen more than 100% in the last ten years. It turns out that the technology sector has been the de facto leader here — with technology companies holding almost half of all cash that is held by US non-financial companies.
Moody’s also warns that overseas cash is likely to increase ahead. Richard Lane, a Senior VP of Moody’s, said:
Without tax reform that reduces the negative financial consequences of repatriating money to the US, we expect offshore cash levels to continue increasing.