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Corporate cash may not be dead, but it sure is resting

The unprecedented pile of cash on North America’s corporate balance sheets might finally be set to shrink. But while the so-called “dead money” is showing signs of life, it would be a big stretch to call it lively, at least from a broader economic perspective.

Independent financial market research firm FactSet reported this week that cash holdings at S&P 500 companies were $1.34-trillion (U.S.) in the first quarter, down 4.7 per cent from the prior quarter. That’s the first decline since 2012, snapping a string of six consecutive quarterly increases that had added nearly $200-billion to the U.S. stash.