One study shows that the average cash ratio doubled from 1998 to 2004 and the median ratio more than tripled, while debt levels fell. According to S.& P., the total cash held by companies in its industrial index exceeded $600 billion in February, up from about $203 billion in 1998.
René M. Stulz, who holds the Reese chair in banking and monetary economics at the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University, said research he conducted with two other professors on corporate cash levels since 1980 indicated that growing cash holdings over that period most likely reflected the simple fact that the world became a much riskier place for business.
“Companies responded to those rising risks by saving more,” said Professor Stulz, whose study excluded utilities and financial companies because their cash reserves are monitored by regulators.
An even longer savings trend was spotted by Jason DeSena Trennert, managing partner and chief investment strategist at Strategas Research Partners in New York, who said his own rough examination of corporate balance sheets shows that “cash, as a percent of total assets, is as high as it’s been since the 1960s.”
-Companies Are Piling Up Cash