Monday, February 8, 2010

US Bankruptcies Rise 7% Year over Year

Despite enjoying 2 full quarters of 'recovery', and coming off a hefty 5.7% GDP quarter - the reality is not so happy down on Main Street (business).  Keep in mind the year over year comparisons are versus the period of time (fall 2008/winter 2008-2009) when the recession was at its deepest, so to see continued "growth" in this area is certainly not a green shoot.  However, I am sure it can be explained away as all bad news is... let me think of an appropriate head in sand response.  Ah yes... let's throw this on the pile of "it's a lagging indicator".

Via Reuters:
  • U.S. business bankruptcy filings rose 7 percent in January from a year ago, as the sluggish economy hurt sales and hindered businesses' ability to refinance heavy debt obligations.
  • 6,502 companies filed for bankruptcy protection in January, (I wonder if the guys at the BLS were aware of that while they were insisting hundreds of thousands of jobs were being created by businesses too small to measure?) compared with 6,055 in the same month last year, according to Automated Access to Court Electronic Records (AACER), adatabase of U.S. bankruptcy statistics used by attorneys and lenders.
  • AACER's count of commercial cases includes bankruptcy filings from companies, as well as individuals who say they are running a business.  "You don't see a recovering economy in bankruptcy numbers until 12 to 18 months after the economy has actually begun to recover," he said.
There is certainly a huge advantage right now to being a public company versus private and smaller.  The larger companies can issue shares - which apparently there is an almost limitless appetite for with all the free money being handed out @ 0.25% rates.  While it dilutes shareholders it does provide a lease on life. Meanwhile, the smaller private peers have no such luck as banks seem disinterested in taking that sort of credit risk.  Why bother when you borrow from the most generous Time Man of the Year at 0.25% and buy US Treasuries at over 3% and mint money for free, while speculating in the stock market on the side.

Oh well!  When there is bad news, as I wrote above - we can conveniently explain it all away as "backwards looking" or a "lagging indicator".  The path should be all uphill from here since the economy turned the corner a few quarters ago.
  • "(The numbers) indicate that there's going to be more filings in 2010 than in 2009," said Mike Bickford, president of AACER.

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