The AFP Corporate Cash Indicators index from the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) indicates that companies are getting ready to deploy the cash reserves they’ve built up since the start of the recession. In July 2014, 10 percent more companies were planning to increase their cash holdings over the next quarter than were planning to decrease their cash holdings. In October 2014, the balance had shifted; 3 percent more companies expected to reduce cash than to increase it. By last month, that number had jumped to 14 percent.
Each quarter, the AFP surveys corporate finance professionals about trends in their cash management and short-term investing. Among other questions, it asks “During the current quarter, do you expect your organization will increase, decrease, or maintain its current cash and short-term investment holdings?” In the survey conducted in early January, 20 percent of respondents said they expect to expand their cash and short-term investment balances over the next quarter, while 33 percent said they expect to reduce those balances. After rounding, this puts the January Corporate Cash Indicators index, calculated as the proportion of companies that expect to increase cash minus the proportion that expect to decrease it, at -14. A year ago, slightly more companies expected to spend cash than to stockpile it; the index was -1 in January 2014. The January 2015 reading of -14 is the lowest the AFP has ever calculated.
This represents a notable shift, after companies continued to hoard cash throughout 2014. When asked whether their organization’s cash and short-term investments increased, decreased, or remained the same over the fourth quarter of 2014, 39 percent said they increased and 26 percent said they decreased. When asked whether short-term holdings had changed over the prior year, 35 percent said they had increased and 26 percent said they had decreased.
The survey also revealed that in the last quarter of 2014, the vast majority of companies made no changes to their strategies for selecting short-term investments. But among those that did change course, 6 percent became more aggressive in their investment selection, while only 1 percent became more conservative.