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Corporate U.S. piles on debt to keep shareholders smiling

Cash is always appreciated around Christmas. How nice, then, that a record number of companies are making special payouts, ahead of expectations of higher U.S. taxes on dividends. The latest round of payouts stems from unique circumstances – the fiscal cliff – but is also part of a larger trend. After bolstering their balance sheets following the financial crisis, U.S. non-financial companies are adding leverage again.