Low Interest Rates and Bank’s Profitability – Update May 2019
My last post on this important topic was in 2017. Since then several new articles and research papers have been published. I have compiled them in this post. Please see references.
In my posts I have shown how many trends in economics for the last thirty years can be explained by unintendend consequences of US Federal Researve monetary policy of lowering interest rates to boost economic growth.
Rise of Shadow Banking – MMMF
Rise of International capital flows in USA
Growth of Consumer credit – Credit Cards and Housing Loans
Decline in Net Interest Margins of the Banks
Risk taking by banks to maintain and increase their profits
Rise of Non interest income of Banks
Rise of Non core business of banks
Rise of Mergers/Acquisitions/Consolidation in Banking sector
Related to these are:
Business Investments by Production side of economy
Increase in Market concentration of Products
Increase in Mergers and Acquisitions/consolidation among Product market businesses
Decreasing monitory policy effectiveness
Wrong economic growth forecasts
Secular Stagnation Hypothesis
Rise of Outsourcing and global value chains
Free Trade agreements
Increase in Ineqality of wealth and Income
Increase in corporate profits and equities market
Increase in corporate savings
Increase in share buybacks, and dividends payouts
I have yet to see an effort by economists and policy makers to analyze these trends in an integrated manner.
To be prepared for any future crisis in economic/financial system, collective efforts have to be made to understand non linear sources of complexity and fragility.
Increasing Market Concentration in USA: Update April 2019
In this post, I have compiled recent articles and papers on the issues of:
Increased Market Power
Increased Market Concentration
Increased Corporate Profits
Anti Trust Laws and Competition policy
Interest rates and Business Investments
Interest rates and Mergers and Acquisitions
Stock Buybacks, Dividends, and Business Investments
Outsourcing, and Global Value Chains
Corporate Savings Glut
Slower Economic Growth
From Low Interest Rates, Market Power, and Productivity Growth
How does the production side of the economy respond to a low interest rate environment? This study provides a new theoretical result that low interest rates encourage market concentration by giving industry leaders a strategic advantage over followers, and this effect strengthens as the interest rate approaches zero. The model provides a unified explanation for why the fall in long-term interest rates has been associated with rising market concentration, reduced dynamism, a widening productivity-gap between industry leaders and followers, and slower productivity growth. Support for the model’s key mechanism is established by showing that a decline in the ten year Treasury yield generates positive excess returns for industry leaders, and the magnitude of the excess returns rises as the Treasury yield approaches zero.
Competition, Concentration, and Anti-Trust Laws in the USA
Currently the US FTC has been having hearings on concentration, competition, and anti-trust laws in the USA. Several conferences are organized starting with September 2018. I present links to hearings details and videos of the sessions. As of now, two hearings have already taken place. I have given the links to the third hearing below. Economists Joe Stiglitz and Jason Furman have given speeches and presentations during first and second hearings.
Key Sources of Research:
Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century
The Federal Trade Commission will hold a series of public hearings during the fall and winter 2018 examining whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies, or international developments might require adjustments to competition and consumer protection law, enforcement priorities, and policy. The PDF version of this content includes footnotes and sources. All the hearings will be webcast live.
Recent Economic Policy Symposium at Jackson Hole Wyoming (August 23-25) where economists, central bankers, policy makers gather together annually discussed issues of Rising Market Concentration, Declining Business Investments, and Declining Economic Dynamism.
2018 Economic Policy Symposium, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Public traded companies are always under pressure to show earnings growth and sales revenue growth to enhance shareholder value.
How do they do it when markets have matured and economy has slowed?
Increase Market Share
Find New Markets
Create New products and servicces
How do then companies lower their costs?
Vertical Mergers and Acquisitions
Outsourcing (Sourcing parts and components / Intermediate Goods / Inputs from cross border)
Offshoring (Shifting Production cross border)
How do then companies increase their market share?
Horizontal Mergers and Acquisitions
Cross Border Markets Share (Sales in other countries)
In the last thirty years, this is exactly what has happened in US economy.
Macro Trends of increase in Outsourcing/Offshoring, Increase in Market Concentration, Increase in Inequality, Increase in Corporate Profits, Rising Equity Prices, Slower Productivity Growth, Lower Interest Rates, Low Labor Share, and Capital Share.
Please see my other posts expanding on these issues.
Please note that these forces are continuing and trends will remain on current trajectory.
Stakeholder vs Shareholder Capitalism
Slow Productivity Growth
Rising Market Concentration
Rising Equities Market
Dupont Ratio Analysis
Financial Planning (Micro – Firm Level)
Economic Planning (Macro- Aggregate Level)
From SHAREHOLDER CAPITALISM: A SYSTEM IN CRISIS
Our current, highly financialised, form of shareholder capitalism is not just failing to provide new capital for investment, it is actively undermining the ability of listed companies to reinvest their own profits. The stock market has become a vehicle for extracting value from companies, not for injecting it.
No wonder that Andy Haldane, Chief Economist of the Bank of England, recently suggested that shareholder capitalism is ‘eating itself.’1 Corporate governance has become dominated by the need to maximise short-term shareholder returns. At the same time, financial markets have grown more complex, highly intermediated, and similarly shorttermist, with shares increasingly seen as paper assets to be traded rather than long term investments in sound businesses.
This kind of trading is a zero-sum game with no new wealth, let alone social value, created. For one person to win, another must lose – and increasingly, the only real winners appear to be the army of financial intermediaries who control and perpetuate the merry-goround. There is nothing natural or inevitable about the shareholder-owned corporation as it currently exists. Like all economic institutions, it is a product of political and economic choices which can and should be remade if they no longer serve our economy, society, or environment.
Here’s the impact this shareholder model is currently having:
• Economy: Shareholder capitalism is holding back productive investment. Even the Chief Executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has admitted that pressure to keep the share price high means corporate leaders are ‘underinvesting in innovation, skilled workforces or essential capital expenditures.’ 2
• Society: Shareholder capitalism is driving inequality. There is growing evidence that attempts to align executive pay with shareholder value are largely responsible for the ballooning of salaries at the top. The prioritisation of shareholder interests has also contributed to a dramatic decline in UK wages relative to profits, helping to explain the failure of ordinary people’s living standards to rise in line with economic growth.
• Environment: Shareholder capitalism helps to drive environmental destruction. It does this by driving risky shortterm behaviour, such as fossil fuel extraction, which ignores long-term environmental risks.
The idea that shareholder capitalism is the most efficient way to mobilise large amounts of capital is no longer tenable.
We need both to create new models of companies, and implement new ways of organising investment that are fit for building an inclusive, equal, and sustainable economy.
Companies should be explicitly accountable to a mission and a set of interests beyond shareholder returns. Equally, investment must provide long-term capital for socially and environmentally useful projects, and damaging forms of speculation must be restricted.
For most people, our economy simply is not working, and the damaging aspects of shareholder capitalism are at least in part responsible. Reforming shareholder capitalism must not be dismissed as too difficult – the crisis is too urgent for that. We can take the first steps towards a better economic model right now. It’s time to act.
A Crash Course in Dupont Financial Ratio Analysis
What happens when economic growth slows ?
What happens when profit margins decline ?
What happens when Sales growth is limited ?
What does lead to Mergers and Acquisitions ?
What is the impact of Cost of Capital ?
What is EVA (Economic Value Added) ?
What is impact of Outsourcing/Offshoring on Financial Ratios ?
What is impact of Mergers and Acquisitions on Financial Ratios ?
What is impact of Stock Buy Backs on Financial Ratios ?
What is impact of Dividends on Financial Ratios ?
ROS (Return on Sales)
ROE (Return on Equities)
ROA (Return on Assets)
ROIC (Return on Invested Capital)
EVA (Economic Value Added)
MVA (Market Value Added)
From The DuPont Equation, ROE, ROA, and Growth
The DuPont Equation
The DuPont equation is an expression which breaks return on equity down into three parts: profit margin, asset turnover, and leverage.
Explain why splitting the return on equity calculation into its component parts may be helpful to an analyst
By splitting ROE into three parts, companies can more easily understand changes in their returns on equity over time.
As profit margin increases, every sale will bring more money to a company’s bottom line, resulting in a higher overall return on equity.
As asset turnover increases, a company will generate more sales per asset owned, resulting in a higher overall return on equity.
Increased financial leverage will also lead to an increase in return on equity, since using more debt financing brings on higher interest payments, which are tax deductible.
competitive advantage: something that places a company or a person above the competition
The DuPont Equation
The DuPont equation is an expression which breaks return on equity down into three parts. The name comes from the DuPont Corporation, which created and implemented this formula into their business operations in the 1920s. This formula is known by many other names, including DuPont analysis, DuPont identity, the DuPont model, the DuPont method, or the strategic profit model.
The DuPont Equation: In the DuPont equation, ROE is equal to profit margin multiplied by asset turnover multiplied by financial leverage.
Under DuPont analysis, return on equity is equal to the profit margin multiplied by asset turnover multiplied by financial leverage. By splitting ROE (return on equity) into three parts, companies can more easily understand changes in their ROE over time.
Components of the DuPont Equation: Profit Margin
Profit margin is a measure of profitability. It is an indicator of a company’s pricing strategies and how well the company controls costs. Profit margin is calculated by finding the net profit as a percentage of the total revenue. As one feature of the DuPont equation, if the profit margin of a company increases, every sale will bring more money to a company’s bottom line, resulting in a higher overall return on equity.
Components of the DuPont Equation: Asset Turnover
Asset turnover is a financial ratio that measures how efficiently a company uses its assets to generate sales revenue or sales income for the company. Companies with low profit margins tend to have high asset turnover, while those with high profit margins tend to have low asset turnover. Similar to profit margin, if asset turnover increases, a company will generate more sales per asset owned, once again resulting in a higher overall return on equity.
Components of the DuPont Equation: Financial Leverage
Financial leverage refers to the amount of debt that a company utilizes to finance its operations, as compared with the amount of equity that the company utilizes. As was the case with asset turnover and profit margin, Increased financial leverage will also lead to an increase in return on equity. This is because the increased use of debt as financing will cause a company to have higher interest payments, which are tax deductible. Because dividend payments are not tax deductible, maintaining a high proportion of debt in a company’s capital structure leads to a higher return on equity.
The DuPont Equation in Relation to Industries
The DuPont equation is less useful for some industries, that do not use certain concepts or for which the concepts are less meaningful. On the other hand, some industries may rely on a single factor of the DuPont equation more than others. Thus, the equation allows analysts to determine which of the factors is dominant in relation to a company’s return on equity. For example, certain types of high turnover industries, such as retail stores, may have very low profit margins on sales and relatively low financial leverage. In industries such as these, the measure of asset turnover is much more important.
High margin industries, on the other hand, such as fashion, may derive a substantial portion of their competitive advantage from selling at a higher margin. For high end fashion and other luxury brands, increasing sales without sacrificing margin may be critical. Finally, some industries, such as those in the financial sector, chiefly rely on high leverage to generate an acceptable return on equity. While a high level of leverage could be seen as too risky from some perspectives, DuPont analysis enables third parties to compare that leverage with other financial elements that can determine a company’s return on equity.
ROE and Potential Limitations
Return on equity measures the rate of return on the ownership interest of a business and is irrelevant if earnings are not reinvested or distributed.
Calculate a company’s return on equity
Return on equity is an indication of how well a company uses investment funds to generate earnings growth.
Returns on equity between 15% and 20% are generally considered to be acceptable.
Return on equity is equal to net income (after preferred stock dividends but before common stock dividends) divided by total shareholder equity (excluding preferred shares ).
Stock prices are most strongly determined by earnings per share (EPS) as opposed to return on equity.
fundamental analysis: An analysis of a business with the goal of financial projections in terms of income statement, financial statements and health, management and competitive advantages, and competitors and markets.
Return On Equity
Return on equity (ROE) measures the rate of return on the ownership interest or shareholders’ equity of the common stock owners. It is a measure of a company’s efficiency at generating profits using the shareholders’ stake of equity in the business. In other words, return on equity is an indication of how well a company uses investment funds to generate earnings growth. It is also commonly used as a target for executive compensation, since ratios such as ROE tend to give management an incentive to perform better. Returns on equity between 15% and 20% are generally considered to be acceptable.
Return on equity is equal to net income, after preferred stock dividends but before common stock dividends, divided by total shareholder equity and excluding preferred shares.
Return On Equity: ROE is equal to after-tax net income divided by total shareholder equity.
Expressed as a percentage, return on equity is best used to compare companies in the same industry. The decomposition of return on equity into its various factors presents various ratios useful to companies in fundamental analysis.
ROE Broken Down: This is an expression of return on equity decomposed into its various factors.
The practice of decomposing return on equity is sometimes referred to as the “DuPont System. ”
Potential Limitations of ROE
Just because a high return on equity is calculated does not mean that a company will see immediate benefits. Stock prices are most strongly determined by earnings per share (EPS) as opposed to return on equity. Earnings per share is the amount of earnings per each outstanding share of a company’s stock. EPS is equal to profit divided by the weighted average of common shares.
Earnings Per Share: EPS is equal to profit divided by the weighted average of common shares.
The true benefit of a high return on equity comes from a company’s earnings being reinvested into the business or distributed as a dividend. In fact, return on equity is presumably irrelevant if earnings are not reinvested or distributed.
Assessing Internal Growth and Sustainability
Sustainable– as opposed to internal– growth gives a company a better idea of its growth rate while keeping in line with financial policy.
Calculate a company’s internal growth and sustainability ratios
The internal growth rate is a formula for calculating the maximum growth rate a firm can achieve without resorting to external financing.
Sustainable growth is defined as the annual percentage of increase in sales that is consistent with a defined financial policy.
Another measure of growth, the optimal growth rate, assesses sustainable growth from a total shareholder return creation and profitability perspective, independent of a given financial strategy.
retention: The act of retaining; something retained
retention ratio: retained earnings divided by net income
sustainable growth rate: the optimal growth from a financial perspective assuming a given strategy with clear defined financial frame conditions/ limitations
Internal Growth and Sustainability
The true benefit of a high return on equity arises when retained earnings are reinvested into the company’s operations. Such reinvestment should, in turn, lead to a high rate of growth for the company. The internal growth rate is a formula for calculating maximum growth rate that a firm can achieve without resorting to external financing. It’s essentially the growth that a firm can supply by reinvesting its earnings. This can be described as (retained earnings)/(total assets ), or conceptually as the total amount of internal capital available compared to the current size of the organization.
We find the internal growth rate by dividing net income by the amount of total assets (or finding return on assets ) and subtracting the rate of earnings retention. However, growth is not necessarily favorable. Expansion may strain managers’ capacity to monitor and handle the company’s operations. Therefore, a more commonly used measure is the sustainable growth rate.
Sustainable growth is defined as the annual percentage of increase in sales that is consistent with a defined financial policy, such as target debt to equity ratio, target dividend payout ratio, target profit margin, or target ratio of total assets to net sales.
We find the sustainable growth rate by dividing net income by shareholder equity (or finding return on equity) and subtracting the rate of earnings retention. While the internal growth rate assumes no financing, the sustainable growth rate assumes you will make some use of outside financing that will be consistent with whatever financial policy being followed. In fact, in order to achieve a higher growth rate, the company would have to invest more equity capital, increase its financial leverage, or increase the target profit margin.
Optimal Growth Rate
Another measure of growth, the optimal growth rate, assesses sustainable growth from a total shareholder return creation and profitability perspective, independent of a given financial strategy. The concept of optimal growth rate was originally studied by Martin Handschuh, Hannes Lösch, and Björn Heyden. Their study was based on assessments on the performance of more than 3,500 stock-listed companies with an initial revenue of greater than 250 million Euro globally, across industries, over a period of 12 years from 1997 to 2009.
Due to the span of time included in the study, the authors considered their findings to be, for the most part, independent of specific economic cycles. The study found that return on assets, return on sales and return on equity do in fact rise with increasing revenue growth of between 10% to 25%, and then fall with further increasing revenue growth rates. Furthermore, the authors attributed this profitability increase to the following facts:
Companies with substantial profitability have the opportunity to invest more in additional growth, and
Substantial growth may be a driver for additional profitability, whether by attracting high performing young professionals, providing motivation for current employees, attracting better business partners, or simply leading to more self-confidence.
However, according to the study, growth rates beyond the “profitability maximum” rate could bring about circumstances that reduce overall profitability because of the efforts necessary to handle additional growth (i.e., integrating new staff, controlling quality, etc).
Dividend Payments and Earnings Retention
The dividend payout and retention ratios offer insight into how much of a firm’s profit is distributed to shareholders versus retained.
Calculate a company’s dividend payout and retention ratios
Many corporations retain a portion of their earnings and pay the remainder as a dividend.
Dividends are usually paid in the form of cash, store credits, or shares in the company.
Cash dividends are a form of investment income and are usually taxable to the recipient in the year that they are paid.
Dividend payout ratio is the fraction of net income a firm pays to its stockholders in dividends.
Retained earnings can be expressed in the retention ratio.
stock split: To issue a higher number of new shares to replace old shares. This effectively increases the number of shares outstanding without changing the market capitalization of the company.
Dividend Payments and Earnings Retention
Dividends are payments made by a corporation to its shareholder members. It is the portion of corporate profits paid out to stockholders. On the other hand, retained earnings refers to the portion of net income which is retained by the corporation rather than distributed to its owners as dividends. Similarly, if the corporation takes a loss, then that loss is retained and called variously retained losses, accumulated losses or accumulated deficit. Retained earnings and losses are cumulative from year to year with losses offsetting earnings. Many corporations retain a portion of their earnings and pay the remainder as a dividend.
A dividend is allocated as a fixed amount per share. Therefore, a shareholder receives a dividend in proportion to their shareholding. Retained earnings are shown in the shareholder equity section in the company’s balance sheet –the same as its issued share capital.
Public companies usually pay dividends on a fixed schedule, but may declare a dividend at any time, sometimes called a “special dividend” to distinguish it from the fixed schedule dividends. Dividends are usually paid in the form of cash, store credits (common among retail consumers’ cooperatives), or shares in the company (either newly created shares or existing shares bought in the market). Further, many public companies offer dividend reinvestment plans, which automatically use the cash dividend to purchase additional shares for the shareholder.
Cash dividends (most common) are those paid out in currency, usually via electronic funds transfer or a printed paper check. Such dividends are a form of investment income and are usually taxable to the recipient in the year they are paid. This is the most common method of sharing corporate profits with the shareholders of the company. For each share owned, a declared amount of money is distributed. Thus, if a person owns 100 shares and the cash dividend is $0.50 per share, the holder of the stock will be paid $50. Dividends paid are not classified as an expense but rather a deduction of retained earnings. Dividends paid do not show up on an income statement but do appear on the balance sheet.
Stock dividends are those paid out in the form of additional stock shares of the issuing corporation or another corporation (such as its subsidiary corporation). They are usually issued in proportion to shares owned (for example, for every 100 shares of stock owned, a 5% stock dividend will yield five extra shares). If the payment involves the issue of new shares, it is similar to a stock split in that it increases the total number of shares while lowering the price of each share without changing the market capitalization, or total value, of the shares held.
Dividend Payout and Retention Ratios
Dividend payout ratio is the fraction of net income a firm pays to its stockholders in dividends:
The part of the earnings not paid to investors is left for investment to provide for future earnings growth. These retained earnings can be expressed in the retention ratio. Retention ratio can be found by subtracting the dividend payout ratio from one, or by dividing retained earnings by net income.
Dividend Payout Ratio: The dividend payout ratio is equal to dividend payments divided by net income for the same period.
Relationships between ROA, ROE, and Growth
Return on assets is a component of return on equity, both of which can be used to calculate a company’s rate of growth.
Discuss the different uses of the Return on Assets and Return on Assets ratios
Return on equity measures the rate of return on the shareholders ‘ equity of common stockholders.
Return on assets shows how profitable a company’s assets are in generating revenue.
In other words, return on assets makes up two-thirds of the DuPont equation measuring return on equity.
Capital intensity is the term for the amount of fixed or real capital present in relation to other factors of production. Rising capital intensity pushes up the productivity of labor.
return on common stockholders’ equity: a fiscal year’s net income (after preferred stock dividends but before common stock dividends) divided by total equity (excluding preferred shares), expressed as a percentage
quantitatively: With respect to quantity rather than quality.
Return On Assets Versus Return On Equity
In review, return on equity measures the rate of return on the ownership interest (shareholders’ equity) of common stockholders. Therefore, it shows how well a company uses investment funds to generate earnings growth. Return on assets shows how profitable a company’s assets are in generating revenue. Return on assets is equal to net income divided by total assets.
Return On Assets: Return on assets is equal to net income divided by total assets.
This percentage shows what the company can do with what it has (i.e., how many dollars of earnings they derive from each dollar of assets they control). This is in contrast to return on equity, which measures a firm’s efficiency at generating profits from every unit of shareholders’ equity. Return on assets is, however, a vital component of return on equity, being an indicator of how profitable a company is before leverage is considered. In other words, return on assets makes up two-thirds of the DuPont equation measuring return on equity.
ROA, ROE, and Growth
In terms of growth rates, we use the value known as return on assets to determine a company’s internal growth rate. This is the maximum growth rate a firm can achieve without resorting to external financing. We use the value for return on equity, however, in determining a company’s sustainable growth rate, which is the maximum growth rate a firm can achieve without issuing new equity or changing its debt-to-equity ratio.
Capital Intensity and Growth
Return on assets gives us an indication of the capital intensity of the company. “Capital intensity” is the term for the amount of fixed or real capital present in relation to other factors of production, especially labor. The underlying concept here is how much output can be procured from a given input (assets!). The formula for capital intensity is below:
Capital Intensity=Total AssetsSales
The use of tools and machinery makes labor more effective, so rising capital intensity pushes up the productivity of labor. While companies that require large initial investments will generally have lower return on assets, it is possible that increased productivity will provide a higher growth rate for the company. Capital intensity can be stated quantitatively as the ratio of the total money value of capital equipment to the total potential output. However, when we adjust capital intensity for real market situations, such as the discounting of future cash flows, we find that it is not independent of the distribution of income. In other words, changes in the retention or dividend payout ratios can lead to changes in measured capital intensity.
This document was prepared by the OECD Secretariat to serve as an issues paper for the hearing on market concentration taking place at the 129th meeting of the OECD Competition Committee on 6-8 June 2018
From The Corporate Saving Glut in the Aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis
From Why Are Corporations Holding So Much Cash?
From FACTSET Cash and Investment Quarterly
Companies are holding on to the large sum of cash. Rather than capital investments (CAPEX), cash is being used for share buybacks, dividend payouts, mergers and acquisitions, and cash investments (short and long term).
From FACTSET Cash and Investment Quarterly
Key Sources of Research:
The Corporate Saving Glut in the Aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis
Joseph W. Gruber
Steven B. Kamin
This Draft: June 2015
The global corporate saving glut: Long-term evidence
Why do Firms buyback their Shares? Causes and Consequences.
From Stock buybacks: From retain-and reinvest to downsize-and-distribute
Since the late 1980s, in the name of “maximizing shareholder value” (MSV), U.S. corporate distributions to shareholders have exploded. Dividends are the traditional mode of providing a stream of income to shareholders who, as the name says, hold on to a company’s stock, thus supporting stock-price stability. In contrast, stock repurchases, in which a company buys back its own shares from the marketplace, thus reducing the number of outstanding shares, provide short-term boosts to a company’s stock price, thus contributing to stock-price volatility. Until the mid-1980s dividends were the overwhelmingly predominant form of distributing cash to shareholders. Since then, however, even with dividends on the rise, stock buybacks have added substantially to distributions to shareholders.
Over the decade 2004-2013, 454 companies in S&P 500 Index in March 2014 that were publicly listed over the ten years did $3.4 trillion in stock buybacks, representing 51 percent of net income. These companies expended an additional 35 percent of net income on dividends.5 And buybacks remain in vogue: According to data compiled by Factset, for the 12-month period ending December 2014, S&P 500 companies spent $565 billion on buybacks, up 18 percent from the previous 12-month period.6
Stock buybacks are an important part of the explanation for both the concentration of income among the richest households and the disappearance of middle-class employment opportunities in the United States over the past three decades.7 Over that period the resource-allocation regime at many, if not most, major U.S. business corporations has transitioned from “retain-and-reinvest” to “downsize-and-distribute.” Under retain-and-reinvest, the corporation retains earnings and reinvests them in the productive capabilities embodied in its labor force. Under downsize-and-distribute, the corporation lays off experienced, and often more expensive, workers, and distributes corporate cash to shareholders.8 My research suggests that, with its downsize-and-distribute resource-allocation regime, the “buyback corporation” is in large part responsible for a national economy characterized by income inequity, employment instability, and diminished innovative capability – or the opposite of what I have called “sustainable prosperity.”9
From Buyback Quarterly – Factset/December 2016
From Stock buybacks: From retain-and reinvest to downsize-and-distribute
Five years after the official end of the Great Recession, corporate profits are high, and the stock market is booming. Yet most Americans are not sharing in the recovery. While the top 0.1% of income recipients—which include most of the highest-ranking corporate executives—reap almost all the income gains, good jobs keep disappearing, and new employment opportunities tend to be insecure and underpaid. Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity.
The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame. Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees.
The buyback wave has gotten so big, in fact, that even shareholders—the presumed beneficiaries of all this corporate largesse—are getting worried. “It concerns us that, in the wake of the financial crisis, many companies have shied away from investing in the future growth of their companies,” Laurence Fink, the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, wrote in an open letter to corporate America in March. “Too many companies have cut capital expenditure and even increased debt to boost dividends and increase share buybacks.”
Why are such massive resources being devoted to stock repurchases? Corporate executives give several reasons, which I will discuss later. But none of them has close to the explanatory power of this simple truth: Stock-based instruments make up the majority of their pay, and in the short term buybacks drive up stock prices. In 2012 the 500 highest-paid executives named in proxy statements of U.S. public companies received, on average, $30.3 million each; 42% of their compensation came from stock options and 41% from stock awards. By increasing the demand for a company’s shares, open-market buybacks automatically lift its stock price, even if only temporarily, and can enable the company to hit quarterly earnings per share (EPS) targets.
As a result, the very people we rely on to make investments in the productive capabilities that will increase our shared prosperity are instead devoting most of their companies’ profits to uses that will increase their own prosperity—with unsurprising results. Even when adjusted for inflation, the compensation of top U.S. executives has doubled or tripled since the first half of the 1990s, when it was already widely viewed as excessive. Meanwhile, overall U.S. economic performance has faltered.
If the U.S. is to achieve growth that distributes income equitably and provides stable employment, government and business leaders must take steps to bring both stock buybacks and executive pay under control. The nation’s economic health depends on it.
From Value Creation to Value Extraction
For three decades I’ve been studying how the resource allocation decisions of major U.S. corporations influence the relationship between value creation and value extraction, and how that relationship affects the U.S. economy. From the end of World War II until the late 1970s, a retain-and-reinvest approach to resource allocation prevailed at major U.S. corporations. They retained earnings and reinvested them in increasing their capabilities, first and foremost in the employees who helped make firms more competitive. They provided workers with higher incomes and greater job security, thus contributing to equitable, stable economic growth—what I call “sustainable prosperity.”
This pattern began to break down in the late 1970s, giving way to a downsize-and-distribute regime of reducing costs and then distributing the freed-up cash to financial interests, particularly shareholders. By favoring value extraction over value creation, this approach has contributed to employment instability and income inequality.
As documented by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, the richest 0.1% of U.S. households collected a record 12.3% of all U.S. income in 2007, surpassing their 11.5% share in 1928, on the eve of the Great Depression. In the financial crisis of 2008–2009, their share fell sharply, but it has since rebounded, hitting 11.3% in 2012.
Since the late 1980s, the largest component of the income of the top 0.1% has been compensation, driven by stock-based pay. Meanwhile, the growth of workers’ wages has been slow and sporadic, except during the internet boom of 1998–2000, the only time in the past 46 years when real wages rose by 2% or more for three years running. Since the late 1970s, average growth in real wages has increasingly lagged productivity growth. (See the exhibit “When Productivity and Wages Parted Ways.”)
When Productivity and Wages Parted Ways
From 1948 to the mid-1970s, increases in productivity and wages went hand in hand. Then a gap opened between the two.
Not coincidentally, U.S. employment relations have undergone a transformation in the past three decades. Mass plant closings eliminated millions of unionized blue-collar jobs. The norm of a white-collar worker’s spending his or her entire career with one company disappeared. And the seismic shift toward offshoring left all members of the U.S. labor force—even those with advanced education and substantial work experience—vulnerable to displacement.
To some extent these structural changes could be justified initially as necessary responses to changes in technology and competition. In the early 1980s permanent plant closings were triggered by the inroads superior Japanese manufacturers had made in consumer-durable and capital-goods industries. In the early 1990s one-company careers fell by the wayside in the IT sector because the open-systems architecture of the microelectronics revolution devalued the skills of older employees versed in proprietary technologies. And in the early 2000s the offshoring of more-routine tasks, such as writing unsophisticated software and manning customer call centers, sped up as a capable labor force emerged in low-wage developing economies and communications costs plunged, allowing U.S. companies to focus their domestic employees on higher-value-added work.
These practices chipped away at the loyalty and dampened the spending power of American workers, and often gave away key competitive capabilities of U.S. companies. Attracted by the quick financial gains they produced, many executives ignored the long-term effects and kept pursuing them well past the time they could be justified.
A turning point was the wave of hostile takeovers that swept the country in the 1980s. Corporate raiders often claimed that the complacent leaders of the targeted companies were failing to maximize returns to shareholders. That criticism prompted boards of directors to try to align the interests of management and shareholders by making stock-based pay a much bigger component of executive compensation.
Given incentives to maximize shareholder value and meet Wall Street’s expectations for ever higher quarterly EPS, top executives turned to massive stock repurchases, which helped them “manage” stock prices. The result: Trillions of dollars that could have been spent on innovation and job creation in the U.S. economy over the past three decades have instead been used to buy back shares for what is effectively stock-price manipulation.
Good Buybacks and Bad
Not all buybacks undermine shared prosperity. There are two major types: tender offers and open-market repurchases. With the former, a company contacts shareholders and offers to buy back their shares at a stipulated price by a certain near-term date, and then shareholders who find the price agreeable tender their shares to the company. Tender offers can be a way for executives who have substantial ownership stakes and care about a company’s long-term competitiveness to take advantage of a low stock price and concentrate ownership in their own hands. This can, among other things, free them from Wall Street’s pressure to maximize short-term profits and allow them to invest in the business. Henry Singleton was known for using tender offers in this way at Teledyne in the 1970s, and Warren Buffett for using them at GEICO in the 1980s. (GEICO became wholly owned by Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, in 1996.) As Buffett has noted, this kind of tender offer should be made when the share price is below the intrinsic value of the productive capabilities of the company and the company is profitable enough to repurchase the shares without impeding its real investment plans.
But tender offers constitute only a small portion of modern buybacks. Most are now done on the open market, and my research shows that they often come at the expense of investment in productive capabilities and, consequently, aren’t great for long-term shareholders.
Companies have been allowed to repurchase their shares on the open market with virtually no regulatory limits since 1982, when the SEC instituted Rule 10b-18 of the Securities Exchange Act. Under the rule, a corporation’s board of directors can authorize senior executives to repurchase up to a certain dollar amount of stock over a specified or open-ended period of time, and the company must publicly announce the buyback program. After that, management can buy a large number of the company’s shares on any given business day without fear that the SEC will charge it with stock-price manipulation—provided, among other things, that the amount does not exceed a “safe harbor” of 25% of the previous four weeks’ average daily trading volume. The SEC requires companies to report total quarterly repurchases but not daily ones, meaning that it cannot determine whether a company has breached the 25% limit without a special investigation.
Despite the escalation in buybacks over the past three decades, the SEC has only rarely launched proceedings against a company for using them to manipulate its stock price. And even within the 25% limit, companies can still make huge purchases: Exxon Mobil, by far the biggest stock repurchaser from 2003 to 2012, can buy back about $300 million worth of shares a day, and Apple up to $1.5 billion a day. In essence, Rule 10b-18 legalized stock market manipulation through open-market repurchases.
The rule was a major departure from the agency’s original mandate, laid out in the Securities Exchange Act in 1934. The act was a reaction to a host of unscrupulous activities that had fueled speculation in the Roaring ’20s, leading to the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. To prevent such shenanigans, the act gave the SEC broad powers to issue rules and regulations.
During the Reagan years, the SEC began to roll back those rules. The commission’s chairman from 1981 to 1987 was John Shad, a former vice chairman of E.F. Hutton and the first Wall Street insider to lead the commission in 50 years. He believed that the deregulation of securities markets would channel savings into economic investments more efficiently and that the isolated cases of fraud and manipulation that might go undetected did not justify onerous disclosure requirements for companies. The SEC’s adoption of Rule 10b-18 reflected that point of view.
Debunking the Justifications for Buybacks
Executives give three main justifications for open-market repurchases. Let’s examine them one by one:
1. Buybacks are investments in our undervalued shares that signal our confidence in the company’s future.
This makes some sense. But the reality is that over the past two decades major U.S. companies have tended to do buybacks in bull markets and cut back on them, often sharply, in bear markets. (See the exhibit “Where Did the Money from Productivity Increases Go?”) They buy high and, if they sell at all, sell low. Research by the Academic-Industry Research Network, a nonprofit I cofounded and lead, shows that companies that do buybacks never resell the shares at higher prices.
Where Did the Money from Productivity Increases Go?
Buybacks—as well as dividends—have skyrocketed in the past 20 years. (Note that these data are for the 251 companies that were in the S&P 500 in January 2013 and were public from 1981 through 2012. Inclusion of firms that went public after 1981, such as Microsoft, Cisco, Amgen, Oracle, and Dell, would make the increase in buybacks even more marked.) Though executives say they repurchase only undervalued stocks, buybacks increased when the stock market boomed, casting doubt on that claim.
Source: Standard & Poor’s Compustat database; the Academic-Industry Research Network.
Note: Mean repurchase and dividend amounts are in 2012 dollars.
Once in a while a company that bought high in a boom has been forced to sell low in a bust to alleviate financial distress. GE, for example, spent $3.2 billion on buybacks in the first three quarters of 2008, paying an average price of $31.84 per share. Then, in the last quarter, as the financial crisis brought about losses at GE Capital, the company did a $12 billion stock issue at an average share price of $22.25, in a failed attempt to protect its triple-A credit rating.
In general, when a company buys back shares at what turn out to be high prices, it eventually reduces the value of the stock held by continuing shareholders. “The continuing shareholder is penalized by repurchases above intrinsic value,” Warren Buffett wrote in his 1999 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. “Buying dollar bills for $1.10 is not good business for those who stick around.”
2. Buybacks are necessary to offset the dilution of earnings per share when employees exercise stock options.
Calculations that I have done for high-tech companies with broad-based stock option programs reveal that the volume of open-market repurchases is generally a multiple of the volume of options that employees exercise. In any case, there’s no logical economic rationale for doing repurchases to offset dilution from the exercise of employee stock options. Options are meant to motivate employees to work harder now to produce higher future returns for the company. Therefore, rather than using corporate cash to boost EPS immediately, executives should be willing to wait for the incentive to work. If the company generates higher earnings, employees can exercise their options at higher stock prices, and the company can allocate the increased earnings to investment in the next round of innovation.
3. Our company is mature and has run out of profitable investment opportunities; therefore, we should return its unneeded cash to shareholders.
Some people used to argue that buybacks were a more tax-efficient means of distributing money to shareholders than dividends. But that has not been the case since 2003, when the tax rates on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends were made the same. Much more important issues remain, however: What is the CEO’s main role and his or her responsibility to shareholders?
Companies that have built up productive capabilities over long periods typically have huge organizational and financial advantages when they enter related markets. One of the chief functions of top executives is to discover new opportunities for those capabilities. When they opt to do large open-market repurchases instead, it raises the question of whether these executives are doing their jobs.
A related issue is the notion that the CEO’s main obligation is to shareholders. It’s based on a misconception of the shareholders’ role in the modern corporation. The philosophical justification for giving them all excess corporate profits is that they are best positioned to allocate resources because they have the most interest in ensuring that capital generates the highest returns. This proposition is central to the “maximizing shareholder value” (MSV) arguments espoused over the years, most notably by Michael C. Jensen. The MSV school also posits that companies’ so-called free cash flow should be distributed to shareholders because only they make investments without a guaranteed return—and hence bear risk.
Why Money for Reinvestment Has Dried Up
Since the early 1980s, when restrictions on open-market buybacks were greatly eased, distributions to shareholders have absorbed a huge portion of net income, leaving much less for reinvestment in companies.
Note: Data are for the 251 companies that were in the S&P 500 Index in January 2013 and were publicly listed from 1981 through 2012. If the companies that went public after 1981, such as Microsoft, Cisco, Amgen, Oracle, and Dell, were included, repurchases as a percentage of net income would be even higher.
But the MSV school ignores other participants in the economy who bear risk by investing without a guaranteed return. Taxpayers take on such risk through government agencies that invest in infrastructure and knowledge creation. And workers take it on by investing in the development of their capabilities at the firms that employ them. As risk bearers, taxpayers, whose dollars support business enterprises, and workers, whose efforts generate productivity improvements, have claims on profits that are at least as strong as the shareholders’.
The irony of MSV is that public-company shareholders typically never invest in the value-creating capabilities of the company at all. Rather, they invest in outstanding shares in the hope that the stock price will rise. And a prime way in which corporate executives fuel that hope is by doing buybacks to manipulate the market. The only money that Apple ever raised from public shareholders was $97 million at its IPO in 1980. Yet in recent years, hedge fund activists such as David Einhorn and Carl Icahn—who played absolutely no role in the company’s success over the decades—have purchased large amounts of Apple stock and then pressured the company to announce some of the largest buyback programs in history.
The past decade’s huge increase in repurchases, in addition to high levels of dividends, have come at a time when U.S. industrial companies face new competitive challenges. This raises questions about how much of corporate cash flow is really “free” to be distributed to shareholders. Many academics—for example, Gary P. Pisano and Willy C. Shih of Harvard Business School, in their 2009 HBR article “Restoring American Competitiveness” and their book Producing Prosperity—have warned that if U.S. companies don’t start investing much more in research and manufacturing capabilities, they cannot expect to remain competitive in a range of advanced technology industries.
Retained earnings have always been the foundation for investments in innovation. Executives who subscribe to MSV are thus copping out of their responsibility to invest broadly and deeply in the productive capabilities their organizations need to continually innovate. MSV as commonly understood is a theory of value extraction, not value creation.
Executives Are Serving Their Own Interests
As I noted earlier, there is a simple, much more plausible explanation for the increase in open-market repurchases: the rise of stock-based pay. Combined with pressure from Wall Street, stock-based incentives make senior executives extremely motivated to do buybacks on a colossal and systemic scale.
Consider the 10 largest repurchasers, which spent a combined $859 billion on buybacks, an amount equal to 68% of their combined net income, from 2003 through 2012. (See the exhibit “The Top 10 Stock Repurchasers.”) During the same decade, their CEOs received, on average, a total of $168 million each in compensation. On average, 34% of their compensation was in the form of stock options and 24% in stock awards. At these companies the next four highest-paid senior executives each received, on average, $77 million in compensation during the 10 years—27% of it in stock options and 29% in stock awards. Yet since 2003 only three of the 10 largest repurchasers—Exxon Mobil, IBM, and Procter & Gamble—have outperformed the S&P 500 Index.
The Top 10 Stock Repurchasers 2003–2012
At most of the leading U.S. companies below, distributions to shareholders were well in excess of net income. These distributions came at great cost to innovation, employment, and—in cases such as oil refining and pharmaceuticals—customers who had to pay higher prices for products.
Sources: Standard & Poor’s Compustat database; Standard & Poor’s Execucomp database; the Academic-Industry Research Network.
Note: The percentages of stock-based pay include gains realized from exercising stock options for all years plus, for 2003–2005, the fair value of restricted stock grants or, for 2006–2012, gains realized on vesting of stock awards. Rounding to the nearest billion may affect total distributions and percentages of net income. *Steven Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO from January 2000 to February 2014, did not receive any stock-based pay. He does, however, own about 4% of Microsoft’s shares, valued at more than $13 billion.
Reforming the System
Buybacks have become an unhealthy corporate obsession. Shifting corporations back to a retain-and-reinvest regime that promotes stable and equitable growth will take bold action. Here are three proposals:
Put an end to open-market buybacks.
In a 2003 update to Rule 10b-18, the SEC explained: “It is not appropriate for the safe harbor to be available when the issuer has a heightened incentive to manipulate its share price.” In practice, though, the stock-based pay of the executives who decide to do repurchases provides just this “heightened incentive.” To correct this glaring problem, the SEC should rescind the safe harbor.
A good first step toward that goal would be an extensive SEC study of the possible damage that open-market repurchases have done to capital formation, industrial corporations, and the U.S. economy over the past three decades. For example, during that period the amount of stock taken out of the market has exceeded the amount issued in almost every year; from 2004 through 2013 this net withdrawal averaged $316 billion a year. In aggregate, the stock market is not functioning as a source of funds for corporate investment. As I’ve already noted, retained earnings have always provided the base for such investment. I believe that the practice of tying executive compensation to stock price is undermining the formation of physical and human capital.
Rein in stock-based pay.
Many studies have shown that large companies tend to use the same set of consultants to benchmark executive compensation, and that each consultant recommends that the client pay its CEO well above average. As a result, compensation inevitably ratchets up over time. The studies also show that even declines in stock price increase executive pay: When a company’s stock price falls, the board stuffs even more options and stock awards into top executives’ packages, claiming that it must ensure that they won’t jump ship and will do whatever is necessary to get the stock price back up.
In 1991 the SEC began allowing top executives to keep the gains from immediately selling stock acquired from options. Previously, they had to hold the stock for six months or give up any “short-swing” gains. That decision has only served to reinforce top executives’ overriding personal interest in boosting stock prices. And because corporations aren’t required to disclose daily buyback activity, it gives executives the opportunity to trade, undetected, on inside information about when buybacks are being done. At the very least, the SEC should stop allowing executives to sell stock immediately after options are exercised. Such a rule could help launch a much-needed discussion of meaningful reform that goes beyond the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act’s “Say on Pay”—an ineffectual law that gives shareholders the right to make nonbinding recommendations to the board on compensation issues.
But overall the use of stock-based pay should be severely limited. Incentive compensation should be subject to performance criteria that reflect investment in innovative capabilities, not stock performance.
Transform the boards that determine executive compensation.
Boards are currently dominated by other CEOs, who have a strong bias toward ratifying higher pay packages for their peers. When approving enormous distributions to shareholders and stock-based pay for top executives, these directors believe they’re acting in the interests of shareholders.
That’s a big part of the problem. The vast majority of shareholders are simply investors in outstanding shares who can easily sell their stock when they want to lock in gains or minimize losses. As I argued earlier, the people who truly invest in the productive capabilities of corporations are taxpayers and workers. Taxpayers have an interest in whether a corporation that uses government investments can generate profits that allow it to pay taxes, which constitute the taxpayers’ returns on those investments. Workers have an interest in whether the company will be able to generate profits with which it can provide pay increases and stable career opportunities.
It’s time for the U.S. corporate governance system to enter the 21st century: Taxpayers and workers should have seats on boards. Their representatives would have the insights and incentives to ensure that executives allocate resources to investments in capabilities most likely to generate innovations and value.
Courage in Washington
After the Harvard Law School dean Erwin Griswold published “Are Stock Options Getting out of Hand?” in this magazine in 1960, Senator Albert Gore launched a campaign that persuaded Congress to whittle away special tax advantages for executive stock options. After the Tax Reform Act of 1976, the compensation expert Graef Crystal declared that stock options that qualified for the capital-gains tax rate, “once the most popular of all executive compensation devices…have been given the last rites by Congress.” It also happens that during the 1970s the share of all U.S. income that the top 0.1% of households got was at its lowest point in the past century.
The members of the U.S. Congress should show the courage and independence of their predecessors and go beyond “Say on Pay” to do something about excessive executive compensation. In addition, Congress should fix a broken tax regime that frequently rewards value extractors as if they were value creators and ignores the critical role of government investment in the infrastructure and knowledge that are so crucial to the competitiveness of U.S. business.
Instead, what we have now are corporations that lobby—often successfully—for federal subsidies for research, development, and exploration, while devoting far greater resources to stock buybacks. Here are three examples of such hypocrisy:
Exxon Mobil, while receiving about $600 million a year in U.S. government subsidies for oil exploration (according to the Center for American Progress), spends about $21 billion a year on buybacks. It spends virtually no money on alternative energy research.
Meanwhile, through the American Energy Innovation Council, top executives of Microsoft, GE, and other companies have lobbied the U.S. government to triple its investment in alternative energy research and subsidies, to $16 billion a year. Yet these companies had plenty of funds they could have invested in alternative energy on their own. Over the past decade Microsoft and GE, combined, have spent about that amount annually on buybacks.
Intel executives have long lobbied the U.S. government to increase spending on nanotechnology research. In 2005, Intel’s then-CEO, Craig R. Barrett, argued that “it will take a massive, coordinated U.S. research effort involving academia, industry, and state and federal governments to ensure that America continues to be the world leader in information technology.” Yet from 2001, when the U.S. government launched the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), through 2013 Intel’s expenditures on buybacks were almost four times the total NNI budget.
In response to complaints that U.S. drug prices are at least twice those in any other country, Pfizer and other U.S. pharmaceutical companies have argued that the profits from these high prices—enabled by a generous intellectual-property regime and lax price regulation—permit more R&D to be done in the United States than elsewhere. Yet from 2003 through 2012, Pfizer funneled an amount equal to 71% of its profits into buybacks, and an amount equal to 75% of its profits into dividends. In other words, it spent more on buybacks and dividends than it earned and tapped its capital reserves to help fund them. The reality is, Americans pay high drug prices so that major pharmaceutical companies can boost their stock prices and pad executive pay.Given the importance of the stock market and corporations to the economy and society, U.S. regulators must step in to check the behavior of those who are unable or unwilling to control themselves. “The mission of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,” the SEC’s website explains, “is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.” Yet, as we have seen, in its rulings on and monitoring of stock buybacks and executive pay over three decades, the SEC has taken a course of action contrary to those objectives. It has enabled the wealthiest 0.1% of society, including top executives, to capture the lion’s share of the gains of U.S. productivity growth while the vast majority of Americans have been left behind. Rule 10b-18, in particular, has facilitated a rigged stock market that, by permitting the massive distribution of corporate cash to shareholders, has undermined capital formation, including human capital formation.
The corporate resource allocation process is America’s source of economic security or insecurity, as the case may be. If Americans want an economy in which corporate profits result in shared prosperity, the buyback and executive compensation binges will have to end. As with any addiction, there will be withdrawal pains. But the best executives may actually get satisfaction out of being paid a reasonable salary for allocating resources in ways that sustain the enterprise, provide higher standards of living to the workers who make it succeed, and generate tax revenues for the governments that provide it with crucial inputs.
A version of this article appeared in the September 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Key Sources of Research:
Buybacks Around the World
Market Timing, Governance and Regulation
Alberto Manconi Urs Peyer Theo Vermaelen
EXPLOITING EXCESS RETURNS FROM SHARE BUYBACK ANNOUNCEMENTS
White Paper by Catalyst Capital Advisors
BUYBACKS: FROM BASICS TO POLITICS
The Academic-Industry Research Network
One of the key source of International Trade statistics is a document published by the UNCTAD since 2013:
Key Statistics and Trends in International Trade
Please see references below to access reports for 2015 and 2016.
In 2014, out of USD 18.5 trillion in global trade, about USD 8 trillion was in intermediate goods.
From TRADE IN INTERMEDIATE GOODS AND SERVICES
Introduction: the international dimension of the exchange of intermediate inputs
1. Trade in intermediate inputs has been steadily growing over the last decade. However, despite the internationalisation of production and the increasing importance of outsourcing and foreign investment, some studies have found little rise in intermediate goods trade as a share of total trade1. More than half of goods trade is however made up of intermediate inputs and trade in services is even more of an intermediate type with about three quarters of trade flows being comprised of intermediate services. Trade in intermediate goods and services thus deserves special attention from trade policymakers and so far few studies have investigated how it differs from trade in consumption goods or services.
2. An intermediate good can be defined as an input to the production process that has itself been produced and, unlike capital, is used up in production3. The difference between intermediate and capital goods lies in the latter entering as a fixed asset in the production process. Like any primary factor (such as labour, land, or natural resources) capital is used but not used up in the production process4. On the contrary, an intermediate good is used, often transformed, and incorporated in the final output. As an input, an intermediate good has itself been produced and is hence defined in contrast to a primary input. As an output, an intermediate good is used to produce other goods (or services) contrary to a final good which is consumed and can be referred to as a “consumption good”.
3. Intermediate inputs are not restricted to material goods; they can also consist of services. Thelatter can be potentially used as an input to any sector of the economy; that is for the production of the same, or other services, as well as manufacturing goods. Symmetrically, manufacturing goods can be potentially used to produce the same, or other manufacturing goods, as well as services.
4. An important question we can ask is how to identify inputs among all goods and services produced in an economy. Many types of goods can be easily distinguished as inputs, when their use excludes them from final consumption. Notable examples include chemical substances, construction materials, or business services. The exact same type of good used as an input to some production process can however be destined to consumption. For instance, oranges can be sold to households as a final good, as well as to a factory as an input for food preparation. Telecommunication services can be sold to individuals or to business services firms as an intermediate input for their output. The United Nations distinguish commodities in each basic heading on the basis of the main end-use (United Nations, 2007). It is however recognized that many commodities that are traded internationally may be put to a variety of uses. Other methodologies involve the use of input-output (I-O) tables to distinguish between intermediate and consumption goods.
5. The importance of intermediate goods and services in the economy and trade is associated with a number of developments in the last decades. Growth and increased sophistication of production has given birth to strategies involving fragmentation and reorganisation of firm’s activities, both in terms of ownership boundaries, as in terms of the location for production. In what follows, the international dimension of the exchange of intermediate goods and services is explored by clarifying terms and concepts as well as the links between trade in intermediate inputs and FDI.
From Key Statistics and Trends in International Trade 2015
From Key Statistics and Trends in International Trade 2015
From Key Statistics and Trends in International Trade 2015
From Key Statistics and Trends in International Trade 2015
From Key Statistics and Trends in International Trade 2015
From Key Statistics and Trends in International Trade 2015
From Key Statistics and Trends in International Trade 2015
From Key Statistics and Trends in International Trade 2015
From Key Statistics and Trends in International Trade 2015
Trade networks relating to global value chains have evolved during the last 10 years. In 2004, the East Asian production network was still in its infancy. Most trade flows of parts and components concerned the USA and the European Union, with a number of other countries loosely connected with these two main hubs. As of 2014 trade of parts and components was much more developed. The current state is characterized not only by the prominent role of China, but also by a much more tightly integrated network with a much larger number of countries many of which have multiple connections to different hubs.
From Mapping Global Value Chains: Intermediate Goods Trade and Structural Change in the World Economy
Key sources of Research:
TRADE IN INTERMEDIATE GOODS AND SERVICES
OECD Trade Policy Working Paper No. 93
by Sébastien Miroudot, Rainer Lanz and Alexandros Ragoussis
An Essay on Intra-Industry Trade in Intermediate Goods
The Rise of International Supply Chains: Implications for Global Trade
Growing Trade in Intermediate Goods: Outsourcing, Global Sourcing or Increasing
Importance of MNE Networks?
Imported Inputs and the Gains from Trade
University of Western Ontario
On Inequality of Wealth and Income – Causes and Consequences
Disparity in Wealth and Income of American workers/household is a hot public policy/economic/social/political issue.
what are the causes and consequences of Inequality on economics and society?
From TRENDS IN INCOME INEQUALITY AND ITS IMPACT ON ECONOMIC GROWTH (OECD)
The disparity in the distribution of household incomes has been rising over the past three decades in a vast majority of OECD countries and such long-term trend was interrupted only temporarily in the first years of the Great Recession. Addressing these trends has moved to the top of the policy agenda in many countries. This is partly due to worries that a persistently unbalanced sharing of the growth dividend will result in social resentment, fuelling populist and protectionist sentiments, and leading to political instability. Recent discussions, particularly in the US, about increased inequality being one possible cause of the 2008 financial crisis also contributed to its relevance for policy making. But another growing reason for the strong interest of policy makers in inequality is concern about whether the cumulatively large and sometimes rapid increase in inequality might have an effect on economic growth and on the pace of exit from the current recession. Is inequality a pre-requisite for growth? Or does a greater dispersion of incomes across individuals rather undermine growth? And which are the short and long-term consequences of redistributive policies on growth?
From Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective (IMF)
Widening income inequality is the defining challenge of our time. In advanced economies, the gap between the rich and poor is at its highest level in decades. Inequality trends have been more mixed in emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs), with some countries experiencing declining inequality, but pervasive inequities in access to education, health care, and finance remain. Not surprisingly then, the extent of inequality, its drivers, and what to do about it have become some of the most hotly debated issues by policymakers and researchers alike. Against this background, the objective of this paper is two-fold.
First, we show why policymakers need to focus on the poor and the middle class. Earlier IMF work has shown that income inequality matters for growth and its sustainability. Our analysis suggests that the income distribution itself matters for growth as well. Specifically, if the income share of the top 20 percent (the rich) increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down. In contrast, an increase in the income share of the bottom 20 percent (the poor) is associated with higher GDP growth. The poor and the middle class matter the most for growth via a number of interrelated economic, social, and political channels.
Second, we investigate what explains the divergent trends in inequality developments across advanced economies and EMDCs, with a particular focus on the poor and the middle class. While most existing studies have focused on advanced countries and looked at the drivers of the Gini coefficient and the income of the rich, this study explores a more diverse group of countries and pays particular attention to the income shares of the poor and the middle class—the main engines of growth. Our analysis suggests that
Technological progress and the resulting rise in the skill premium (positives for growth and productivity) and the decline of some labor market institutions have contributed to inequality in both advanced economies and EMDCs. Globalization has played a smaller but reinforcing role. Interestingly, we find that rising skill premium is associated with widening income disparities in advanced countries, while financial deepening is associated with rising inequality in EMDCs, suggesting scope for policies that promote financial inclusion.
Policies that focus on the poor and the middle class can mitigate inequality. Irrespective of the level of economic development, better access to education and health care and well-targeted social policies, while ensuring that labor market institutions do not excessively penalize the poor, can help raise the income share for the poor and the middle class.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to tackling inequality. The nature of appropriate policies depends on the underlying drivers and country-specific policy and institutional settings. In advanced economies, policies should focus on reforms to increase human capital and skills, coupled with making tax systems more progressive. In EMDCs, ensuring financial deepening is accompanied with greater financial inclusion and creating incentives for lowering informality would be important. More generally, complementarities between growth and income equalityobjectives suggest that policies aimed at raising average living standards can also influence the distribution of income and ensure a more inclusive prosperity.
From World changes in inequality: an overview of facts, causes, consequences and policies (BIS)
Public concern about inequality has grown substantially in recent years. Politicians and journalists descant with increasing frequency on the increase in inequality as a threat to social stability, laying the blame on globalisation and its attendant so-called neo-liberal policies. There is certainly much truth in such views. However, the lack of rigour in the public debate is striking, and one may doubt whether a constructive discussion of inequality, its causes and its economic, social and political consequences can take place without more clarity. Is it really the case that inequality is everywhere increasing more or less continuously, as actually seems to be happening in the United States? What type of inequality are we talking about: earnings, market income, household disposable income per consumption unit, wealth? What matters most: the inequality of opportunity or the inequality of economic outcome, including income? What kind of measure should be used? The recently highly publicised share of the top 5, 1.1% taken from tax data may not evolve in the same way as the familiar Gini coefficient defined on disposable incomes. And, then, what is known about the nature of the unequalising forces that seem to affect our economies and what tools might be available to counteract them?
In an international survey conducted in 2010, people were asked how they thought inequality had changed over the previous 10 years.1 In few countries was the perception of inequality trends in agreement with what could be observed from standard statistical sources about inequality. US citizens felt inequality had remained the same, whereas it was surging by most accounts, Brazilians found it was also increasing despite the fact that, for the first time in over 40 years, inequality was declining, while French and Dutch people thought that inequality had increased although the usual inequality coefficients were remarkably stable.
Good policies must rely on precise diagnostics. It is the purpose of this paper to take stock of what is known at this stage about the evolution of inequality around the world. In so doing, it will be shown that an ever-increasing degree of inequality at all times and everywhere over the last 30 years is far from the reality, and that there is a high degree of specificity across countries. In turn, this suggests that the combination of equalising and unequalising forces may be quite different from one country to another. Some factors may be common and truly global but others may be country-specific, the outcome being quite variable across countries. It also follows that tools to correct inequality, if need be, may have to differ in nature depending on the causes of increased inequality.
Tackling all these issues in depth is beyond the scope of this paper. My aim is only to offer an overview of what is observed and the main ideas being debated in the field of economic inequality. The paper is organised as follows. It starts with a quick “tour d‘horizon“ of the evidence for the evolution of various dimensions of economic inequality. It then tackles the issue of the potential causes, identifying what may be seen as common to most countries and what may be specific. Finally, it touches upon the consequences of excessive inequality and the tools available to counter it, emphasising the rising constraints imposed by globalisation.
Causes of Inequality
Focus on Cost Minimization
Focus on ROIC and Economic Value Added (EVA)
Consolidation – Mergers and Acquisitions
Free Trade Agreements – NAFTA
Global Commodity Chains
Global Production Networks
Global Value Chains
Lack of Educated Workforce
Lack of protection for Low income earners
Compensation for Executives vs Labor
Value of High Skilled Technical Workers
Consequences of Inequality
Impact on Effective Demand
Slows Economic Growth
Decreased Economic Mobility
Health and Social effects
Living Standards at the Bottom (Poverty)
Democratic Process and Social Justice
Hampers Poverty reduction
Access to Health services
Access to Financial Services
Access to Education
Key Sources of Research:
The Age of Inequality
Edited by Jeremy Gantz
The Price of Inequality
A Firm-Level Perspective on the Role of Rents in the Rise in Inequality