Chief among the factors contributing to profit-margin expansion is the tight lid companies have put on costs. They have been slow to hire and slow to raise wages. Inflation has outpaced gains in private-sector employee compensation over the past five years, according to the Labor Department.
Spending on new equipment has been muted, too. Aggregate capital expenditure for members of the broad S&P 1500 index has grown by just 0.8% annually over the past five years, according to S&P Capital IQ. Low rates have allowed many companies to refinance debt, cutting interest costs. The effective yield on investment-grade corporate debt, according to the BofA Merrill Lynch Corporate Master index, is now 3.1%, versus 5.8% in December 2007.
Taxes have been low as well, in part as companies offset them with losses taken during the recession. Income statements from companies in the S&P 500 showed an effective tax rate, including state and local taxes, of 29% in 2012 versus 32% in 2007, according to ISI Group's David Zion. He calculates that their cash tax rate—what they actually paid—was 25% in 2012, against 31% in 2007.
Keeping costs low by refraining from hiring or not replacing equipment can only be done for so long, though. And long-term interest rates look more likely to rise than fall over the next year. Losses to offset taxes, too, eventually get used up.The missing word is ObamaCare. Companies will cost shift their employees to health care. Not only does this lower health care costs for corporations (better profit margins) but much more importantly, ObamaCare provide predictability for US corporations.
****************************In other ObamaCare news --
ObamaCare could end health insurance providers as we know them. The Fiscal Times is reporting:
The problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act may be masking another major change in the way health care is delivered to U.S. consumers, experts believe.
At The Atlantic's Health Care Forum in Washington on Thursday, health care and business professionals said that there’s an increasing trend in the industry toward cutting insurance companies out of the process entirely, as large, regional hospital systems move into the insurance business.
Dr. Kenneth L. Davis, CEO and president of Mount Sinai Health System, the largest health care provider in the state of New York, said that starting next year, Mt. Sinai will begin offering its own Medicare Advantage plan. It will look for other opportunities to bring premium payments directly into the hospital system, rather than filtering them through insurance companies.
Davis said he expects organizations similar to his to move in the same direction.
“Inevitably the large systems are going to move to take part of the premium dollar,” he said.