sabato 4 giugno 2011

I guai degli U.S.A. e il management che non premia gli azionisti

Allora incominciamo: ieri i pessimi dati sull'occupazione U.S.A....intanto il debito U.S.A. cresce, i repubblicani e i democratici non riescono a mettersi d'accordo e il rischio di un "default tecnico" aumenta. Le agenzie di rating non stanno a guardare, e così: 

Moody’s warns of US default
The ratings agency warned of a ‘small but rising risk’ the US could default on its debt, adding pressure on Congress and the White House to strike a deal on fiscal policy

Ma il problema principale dell'economia U.S.A. in questo momento sembra essere una crescita asfittica e una dipendenza preoccupante da una Fed molto accondiscendente...

Hiring in U.S. Slowed in May With 54,000 Jobs Added

The unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent, raising concerns once again about the underlying strength of the economic recovery.

War of Ideas on U.S. Budget Overshadows Job Struggle

A run of disappointing economic data is emboldening Congressional Republicans in their standoff with the White House over the best way to encourage growth.

Come osserva oggi David Reilly sul Wall Street Journal gli occhi sono nuovamente puntati sulla Fed in un mondo finanziario che sembra essere incapace di trovare soluzioni alternative alla leva finanziaria combinata con a massicce immissioni di liquidità:questa volta però le aspettative potrebbero essere deluse... 

Cue the Fed. That is one reaction to signs of economic weakness that culminated with Friday's disappointing U.S. jobs figure.
It is easy to see why. Investors, especially in stocks, have become conditioned to thinking the Federal Reserve will ride to their rescue when times get tough. But barring a precipitous drop in markets, investors shouldn't count on the Fed acting too quickly. Nor should the Fed be itching to again expand its balance sheet, after it completes its second round of bond buying in June.(...)
The overindebted U.S. faces a balance-sheet recession. Even though fiscal and monetary stimulus stopped a deflationary spiral, households and the government still need to reduce debt. Household debt as a percentage of personal income is down from bubble-era levels of about 130%, but it still needs to fall markedly.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke already has indicated that the bar for further extraordinary measures is higher than before. After all, though bond buying pushes up the price of riskier assets like stocks, it also carries the risk of stoking bubbles and broader inflation as well as driving up commodity prices, which sap the spending power of the poor.(...)
The likely result is a wait-and-see approach, as the Fed watches the incoming data as well as how the government responds to the debt-ceiling and deficit issues. If nothing else, Mr. Bernanke has to take off the markets' training wheels and force investors to try pedaling on their own.

Ci sono anche gli ottimisti però: dal Wall Street Journal

The Bullish Case for the U.S. Economy

Investment strategist Robert Doll says America's edge is faster population growth, companies that are global in scope, and a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Sui guai dell'economia U.S.A. vi offro un piccolo pensiero un po' casuale che però non riesco a cacciare da quando ho letto questo articolo di Jason Zweig la settimana scorsa: le società U.S.A. hanno un sacco di liquidità in cassa, molta di più di quella che riescono a investire profittevolmente, che non viene redistribuita agli azionisti. Per esempio nell'ultimo trimestre
Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Google, Apple e Johnson & Johnson hanno aggiunto 15 miliardi di dollari in asset liquidi ai loro bilanci. Invece di strapagare Skype, per esempio, Microsoft avrebbe potuto forse restituire un po' dei 100 milioni di dollari al giorno che aggiunge al proprio bilancio in liquidità.

To be sure, at many companies the cash piling up is at global operations that generate "undistributed foreign earnings" that can't be brought home, under U.S. law, without incurring taxes of up to 35%. But hundreds of billions in cash remain available—and idle.
Meanwhile, the payout ratio—the proportion of earnings paid out as dividend income to shareholders—fell to 28.9% for the past four quarters. That, says S&P senior index analyst Howard Silverblatt, is the lowest level since 1936. Dividends are going up—Intel, UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint have recently raised them—but cash is still piling up far faster than most industrial giants can possibly find a prudent use for it. Of course, investors themselves might have a better use for the cash, if they could get at it.
As Daniel Peris, co-manager of the Federated Strategic Value Dividend fund, says, "The likelihood of spending money poorly is increased by having a surplus of it."
Microsoft's purchase price for the online telecommunications firm Skype, widely criticized as too rich at $8.5 billion, almost precisely matches the amount of cash that Microsoft raked in last quarter. Was that torrent of cash burning a hole in Microsoft's pocket? "No way," says Bill Koefoed, general manager of investor relations at Microsoft. "We see this as being a very strategic acquisition."

Nel suo commento Zweig riprende una proposta di Benjamin Graham che era ben consapevole della necessità di allineare gli interessi del management con quelli degli azionisti, a dispetto di una naturale tendenza alla divergenza.  

Benjamin Graham made three simple proposals in 1951 that deserve to be revived.
First, investors need to realize that a company's cash is a valuable asset, even when interest rates are low; if management won't put it to good use, investors must speak up. As Graham wrote: "When the results on capital are unsatisfactory, it is appropriate for stockholders to…insist that it be returned to stockholders on an equitable basis."
Second, companies should set formal dividend policies. Rather than paying or raising dividends out of the blue, they should state in advance what proportion of earnings they expect to pay out as cash dividends. If, instead, they plan to use excess cash to buy back shares, they should offer hard evidence that the stock is undervalued.
Finally, Graham advocated that leading companies should pay out two-thirds of their earnings as dividends. That rate isn't as radical as it might sound, even though it would amount to more than a doubling from today's levels. The dividend payout, as a percentage of total profits, has averaged 52.3% since 1936 and 46% over the past two decades, according to Standard & Poor's.
If the companies in the S&P 500 raised their payout ratio to 50%, Mr. Silverblatt estimates, that would put an extra $207 billion into investors' pockets—at a time when shareholders' dividend income is taxed at historically low rates.
"Companies are basically earning more than they've ever made before, but their payouts are nowhere near that high," says Mr. Silverblatt. "They're holding their cash really tight. You can call them Scrooges if you want."

Forse un modo per rilanciare un po' l'economia sarebbe anche quello di redistribuire un po' i profitti. Dopo tanta socializzazione delle perdite ci potrebbe anche stare. O no? 

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