sum2llc

assessing risk|realizing opportunities

ADP Report: Job Creation Proceeds At Turtle Pace

Slow and steady may win the race but the pace of job creation by the US economy  continues to move along at turtle speed.  For the 20 million unemployed and underemployed people the pace of job creation remains painfully slow as revealed by ADP ‘s National Employment Report for October. During the month, private sector employment increased by 43,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. ADP also revised its employment report for September stating that the economy lost only 2,000 jobs rather then the 39,000 it had previously reported.  Following ADP’s upward revision the private sector has produced 41,000 new jobs during the past 61 days.  For the worlds leading economy with a GDP of almost $15 trillion the lackluster growth in job creation is a troubling indicator of an anemic jobless economic recovery.

The October report arrests the September decline in job growth that reversed  seven consecutive months of positive job creation.  During that time the economy averaged employment gains of 34,000 new private sector jobs per month. This rate of job creation does little to reduce the negative overhang  a 10% unemployment rate is having on economic  growth.   A stabilized and expanding labor market is a key ingredient for a sustained economic recovery. Over the past three years the economy lost over 9 million jobs. For a robust recovery to occur the economy needs to create 200,000 jobs per month for the next four years to return the job market to its pre-recession levels.

As we reported last month the expiration of the Federal stimulus program will force state and local governments to layoff  workers.  Sluggish job creation continues to pressure depleted unemployment funds and the expiration of benefits for many of the unemployed is draining buying power from the economy.

Soft consumer demand  threatens retailers and leisure industry segments and has a spillover effect  on the housing market.  Joblessness is a principal factor in mortgage defaults and contributes to the growing inventory of foreclosed properties held by banks.  The ADP report indicates that during October the US economy shed an additional 23,000 construction jobs. It is estimated that it will take 24 months for the housing market to absorb the existing inventory of foreclosed properties. A  healthy turnaround in the construction  industry will  move in step with the improvement in the housing market conditions.

A sustained recovery will require sector leadership by Small and Mid-Size Enterprises (SME)  as principal drivers of job creation.   SME’s  sector strength has traditionally been in the construction, specialty retail, leisure and service sectors.  Among these segments  only the services sector continues to be a consistent driver for job creation.

Macroeconomic Factors

The principal macroeconomic factors impairing recovery are the continued high unemployment rate, weakness in the housing market, tax policy and deepening fiscal crisis of state, local and federal governments.   The results of this weeks mid-term election and the return of congress to Republican control will encourage the federal government to pursue fiscally conservative policies that will dramatically cut spending and taxes for the small businesses and the middle class.  In the short term spending cuts in federal programs will result in layoffs and cuts in entitlement programs will remove purchasing power from the demand side of the market.  It is believed that the tax cuts to businesses will provide the necessary incentive for SME’s to invest capital surpluses back into the company to stimulate job creation.

Highlights of the ADP Report for October include:

Private sector employment increased by 43,000

Employment in the service-providing sector rose 77,000

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 34,000

Employment in the manufacturing sector declined 12,000

Construction employment declined 23,000

Large businesses with 500 or more workers declined 2,000

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers increased 24,000

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, increased 21,000

Overview of Numbers

The 45,000 jobs created by the SME sectors reverses a decline from September and offsets the 2,000 job cuts by large companies.  The strong growth of service sector  jobs is a positive development.  However the continued softness of goods producing segments and manufacturing continues to indicate the continued decline of  US industrial capacity.  The strong rebound in services  may be the result of the expanding practice of companies utilizing outside contractors to fill human capital requirements.  These types of jobs may mask an underemployed and  transient labor pool forced to accept work at  lower wage scales.

The stock market continues to perform well.  Yesterdays QE2 initiative by the Fed to pump $600 billion into the banking system may allay bankers credit risk concerns and ease lending restrictions to capital starved SME’s.  Despite a projected GDP growth rate of 2%, ADP’s employment figures indicates that the economy continues to dwell at the bottom of an extreme down economic cycle. The danger of a double dip recession still lurks as a remote possibility.  Interest rates remain at historic lows and inflation continues to be benign but its danger grows as a weak dollar continues to flounder forcing oil prices to climb while government debt levels continue to spiral upward.  The balance sheets of large corporate entities remain flush with cash.  Analysts estimate that over $1 Trillion in cash swells corporate treasuries remaining underemployed on lazy corporate balance sheets.  The low interest rate environment  has allowed companies to pursue  deleveraging strategies  considerably strengthening the capital structure of corporate America.  To the dismay of politicians and the unemployed,  economists speculate that deployment of this cash is still a few quarters away from finding its way into the real economy.

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 offers SME’s the Profit|Optimizer to help them manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

For information on the construction and use of the ADP Report, please visit the methodology section of the ADP National Employment Report website.

You Tube Video: Theme from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME

Advertisements

November 5, 2010 Posted by | ADP, banking, business, economics, manufacturing, Profit|Optimizer, SME, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ADP Jobs Report: Reversal of Fortune

ADP has released its National Employment Report for September. During the month, private sector employment decreased by 39,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. After an upward revision of 10,000 new jobs created for August, the September numbers are a reversal from employment trends that seemed to be stabilizing by arresting two years of employment declines. For seven consecutive moths the economy was creating average employment gains of 34,000 private sector jobs. The September numbers reverses that trend and raises concern about the strength of the economic recovery.

A stabilized labor market is a key ingredient to a sustained economic recovery. Over the past three years the economy lost over 9 million jobs. For a robust recovery to occur the economy needs to create 200,000 jobs per month for the next four years to return the job market to its pre-recession levels.

The Federal stimulus program that directed funds to state and local governments to help stem layoffs has now expired. This will result in further belt tightening by local government agencies and will result in layoffs of employees to meet the fiscal restraint imposed by the poor economy.  This will exacerbate the unemployment problem and further impede the buying power and tax revenues.  This will continue to hurt the retail industry and local governments sales tax receipts.

The reduction in the government work force is symptomatic of the reconfiguration of the economy. During the past decade government employment increased dramatically. Its pairing down will put added pressure on the private sector to incubate new industries to drive the recovery. Manufacturing and the growth industries of the past decade will be hard pressed to create the level of job creation a robust recovery requires.

The ADP report indicates that since its peak in January of 2007, construction employment has lost 2,297,000 jobs. Construction trades along with credit marketing, retailing, community banking and services supporting these sectors have been dramatically weakened and downsized in the wake of the recession. The private sector led by small and mid-size enterprises (SME) will need to incubate growth industries to create jobs and lead the country out of the doldrums of the flailing economic recovery.

Macroeconomic Factors

The principal macroeconomic factors impairing recovery are the continued high unemployment rate, continued weakness in the housing market, persistent deflation concerns, tax policy and deepening fiscal crisis of state, local and federal governments.  The economic impact of the Gulf oil spill was immediate and dramatic to the local aqua-cultural industries, fishing and regional tourist industries. The long term effects of the spill on the ecological communities of the Gulf is yet to be determined.  The geopolitical uncertainty of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, persistent worries about Iran’s nuclear program and the sovereign debt crisis of the weaker EU member states are persistent concerns weighing on capital market participants.

Highlights of the ADP Report for September include:

Estimates non-farm private employment in the service-providing sector decreased by 39,000.

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 45,000

Employment in the manufacturing sector declined 17,000

Construction employment declined 28,000

Employment in the services sector rose 6,000.

Large businesses with 500 or more workers declined 11,000

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers declined 14,000

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, declined 14,000

Overview of Numbers

Job loss in the SME sector is troubling. SMEs are the backbone of the construction and retail industries and the continued weakness of these sectors weighs on their ability to become a driver of consistent job growth. The continued deterioration of the financial health of SMEs and their ability to marshal resources from depleted balance sheets and limited credit lines may be impairing the ability to mount an effective response to the dire economic conditions.

Despite the backdrop of the stock markets stellar performance during September, ADP’s employment figures indicates that the economy continues to dwell at the bottom of an extreme down economic cycle. The danger of a double dip recession still lurks as a possibility.  The balance sheets of large corporate entities are flush with cash.  Some analysts estimate that over $1 Trillion in cash swells corporate coffers.  Some economists speculate that deployment this cash is critical to the economic upturn and still a few quarters away from finding its way into the real economy.

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 offers SME’s the Profit|Optimizer to help them manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

For information on the construction and use of the ADP Report, please visit the methodology section of the ADP National Employment Report website.

You Tube Video: Van Halen, Ice Cream Man

Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using the Z Score to Manage Corporate Financial Health

We use Altman’s Z Score as our measurement tool to assess a company’s financial condition. It incorporates fundamental financial analysis, offers a consistent measurement methodology across all business segments, and an enhanced level of transparency by use of fully disclosed and open calculation model.

Z Score Advantages

The Z Score provides a quantitative measurement into a company’s financial health. The Z Score highlights factors contributing to a company’s financial health and uncovers emerging trends that indicate improvements or deterioration in financial condition.

The Z Score is a critical tool business managers use to assess financial health. It helps managers align business strategies with capital allocation decisions and provide transparency of financial condition to lenders and equity capital providers. Business managers use the Z Score to raise capital and secure credit. The Z Score is an effective tool to demonstrate credit worthiness to bankers and soundness of business model to investors.

The Z Score is based on actual financial information derived from the operating performance of the business enterprise. It avoids biases of subjective assessments, conflicts of interest, brand and large company bias. The Z Score employs no theoretical assumptions or market inputs external to the company’s financial statements. This provides users of the Z Score with a consistent view and understanding of a company’s true financial health.

Background

The Z Score was first developed by NYU Professor Edward Altman. The Z Score methodology was developed to provide a more effective financial assessment tool for credit risk analysts and lenders. It is employed by credit professionals to mitigate risk in debt portfolios and by lenders to extend loans. It is widely utilized because it uses multiple variables to measure the financial health and credit worthiness of a borrower. The Z Score is an open system. This allows users of the Z Score to understand the variables employed in the algorithm. All the mysteries and added cost of “proprietary black box” systems are avoided empowering users to enjoy the benefits of a proven credit decision tool based solely on solid financial analysis.

The Z Score is also an effective tool to analyze the financial health and credit worthiness of private companies. It has gained wide acceptance from auditors, management accountants, courts, and database systems used for loan evaluation. The formula’s approach has been used in a variety of contexts and countries. Forty years of public scrutiny speaks highly of its validity.

Z Score Formula

The Z Score method examines liquidity, profitability, reinvested earnings and leverage which are integrated into a single composite score. It can be used with past, current or projected data as it requires no external inputs such as GDP or Market Price.

The Z Score uses a series of data points from a company’s balance sheet. It uses the data points to create and score ratios. These ratios are weighted and aggregated to compile a Z Score.

Z Score = 3.25 + 6.56(X1) + 3.26(X2) + 6.72(X3) + 1.05(X4) where

X1 = Working Capital / Total Assets
X2 = Retained Earnings / Total Assets
X3 = Earnings Before Interest & Tax / Total Assets
X4 = Total Book Equity /Total Liabilities

If you divide 1 by X4 then add 1 the result is the company’s total leverage.

The higher the score the more financially sound the company.

Z Score Ratings cutoff scores used in classifications:

AAA     8.15             AA        7.30

A          6.65              BBB     5.85

BB        4.95             B            4.15

CCC     3.20             D           3.19

Credit Worthiness and Cost Of Capital

Lenders and credit analysts use Z Scores because they are effective indicators and predictors of loan defaults. it is an important risk mitigation tool and helps them to better price credit products based on borrowers credit worthiness.

Utilizing a 10 year corporate mortality table demonstrates how Z Score ratings correlate to defaults. Those with a rating of A or better have a 10 year failure rate that ranges from .03% to .082%. The failure rate for those with a BBB rating jumps to 9.63%. BB, B and CCC failure rates are 19.69%, 37.26% and 58.63% respectively. These tables will differ slightly as each producer uses different criteria but overall they are quite similar.

Borrowers with higher Z Scores ratings will have a better chance of obtaining financing and secure a lower cost of capital and preferred interest rates because lenders will have greater confidence in being paid back their principal and interest. Financial wellness is an indication of strong company management and that effective governance controls are in place.

Managing Business Decisions to Improve Financial Health

The Z Score is also a critical business tool managers utilize to make informed business decisions to improve the financial health of the business. The Z Score helps managers assess the factors contributing to poor financial health. Z Score factors that contribute to under-performance; working capital, earnings retention, profitability and leverage can be isolated. This enables managers to initiate actions to improve the score of these factors contributing to financial distress. Targeting actions to specific under-performing stress factors allows managers to make capital allocation decisions that mitigate principal risk factors and produce optimal returns.

Focus areas for managers to improve Z Score are transactions that effect earnings/(losses), capital expenditures, equity and debt transactions.

The most common transactions include:

  1. Earnings (Net Earnings) increases working capital and equity.
  2. Adjust EBIT by adding back interest expense.
  3. Adjust EBIT by adding back income tax expense.
  4. Depreciation and amortization expense is already included in the earnings number so it won’t have an additional effect on earnings or equity but it will increase working capital as noncash items previously deducted.
  5. Capital Expenditures (fixed asset purchases) decrease working capital as cash is used to pay for them (whether the source is existing cash or new cash acquired from debt).
  6. Short term debt transactions have no effect on working capital as there are offsetting changes in both current assets and liabilities but does change total liabilities and total assets.
  7. Acquiring new long term debt increases working capital, total liabilities and total assets.
  8. Typical equity transactions (other than earnings, which we have already accounted for) are dividends paid to stockholders resulting in decreases to working capital and equity.
  9. New contributed capital increases working capital and equity.

Scenario Analysis

Using the Z Score financial managers can actively manage their balance sheet by considering transactions and initiatives designed to impact financial wellness. Considerable attention needs to be placed on how losses, sale of fixed assets and long term debt payments effect financial condition.

In the above we included the basic transactions that would likely occur but you can do the same for any scenario by applying the same concept. It may take a little practice to think in these groupings but you’ll shortly find yourself with the ability to project any event. The effects can be measured and revised as necessary by adjusting the contemplated transactions. Remember that several variables exist and that a combination of choices might be necessary to keep your financial strength at the desired level.

Any projection should include the calculation and comparison of key metrics to historical results to ensure that assumptions have been correctly calculated. Significant deviations from prior results should have adequate explanations. Maintaining a strong working capital position can offset the negative effects from increased debt, increased assets and minor earning declines.

Sum2′s Profit|Optimizer

Sum2 publishes the Profit|Optimizer.  The Profit|Optimizer is a risk assessment and opportunity discovery tool for small and mid-sized businesses.  It assists managers to identify and manage risk factors confronting their business. The goal of the Profit|Optimizer is to help business mangers demonstrate creditworthiness to lenders and make make informed capital allocation decisions.

Sum2 boasts a worldwide clientele of small and mid-sized business managers, bankers, CPA’s and risk management consultants that utilize the Profit|Optimizer to help their clients raise capital with effective risk governance.

Cautions

Financial models are not infallible and should be used in conjunction with common sense and with an awareness of market conditions. It is important to understand your model so that other considerations can be incorporated when necessary. Note that most models (Z score included) use a proxy (working capital) for liquidity which works well until there are severe disruptions in credit markets as recently encountered. Use caution with all models. Use extreme caution when using a proprietary black box system where you can’t understand all the components. Are these users aware or ignorant of possible issues?

Trust but verify seems like a prudent policy.

Conclusions

The Z Score is a valuable management tool to proactively assess the financial condition of the company’s balance sheet, uncover factors that are stressing the balance sheet and initiate actions to improve the financial wellness and credit worthiness of the firm. All business decisions and actions are ultimately revealed in the company’s balance sheet. The Z Score measures the effectiveness of business decisions. It empowers managers to anticipate changes occurring in credit worthiness and proactively manage changes in financial condition.

Armed with a tool to calculate future financial positions managers have the latitude to better manage outstanding receivables, improve liquidity and lower their cost of capital. Calls for capital, negotiations for funding or decisions in setting credit policy can now be made from a knowledgeable position with a set of supporting facts.

The Z Score gives business managers an important negotiating tool to defend their credit rating during capital raises when excess leverage or deficient levels of working capital and equity are present.

This post was authored by CreditAides.

This post was edited by Sum2llc

Risk: small business lending, credit risk, commercial lending, SME

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

ADP Reports Third Consecutive Month of Job Gains

ADP has released its National Employment Report for May.   Non-farm private employment increased 55,000 during  the month on a seasonally adjusted basis.   ADP also reported an upward revision of 33,000 jobs for March, bringing the number of new jobs created during the month to 65,000.  The three consecutive net employment gains reported by ADP indicates that while the number of new job creation remains modest, positive momentum is developing.

A stabilized labor market is a key ingredient to a sustained economic recovery.  The economy lost over 9 million jobs during the recession and recovery will require the creation of 200,000 new jobs per month for the next 4 years to get back to pre-recession employment levels.  Last years massive Federal stimulus programs directed funds to state and local governments to help stem layoffs. The expiration of those programs will force fiscally challenged local governments to resort to austerity measures that will require the public sector to trim jobs.

Macroeconomic factors continue to be challenging the economic recovery.  The sovereign fiscal crisis in Europe, slowing growth in China, tepid credit markets and political uncertainty counterbalance the positive effects of a stabilizing housing market, low interest rates and benign  inflation.

The economic impact of the Gulf oil spill will not be confined to the region. The local aqua-cultural industries, fishing and tourism to the region has been immediately impacted by the spill.  A prolonged duration of the event will have a profound impact on the economies of the entire Caribbean. The economies and fiscal stability of American cities such as Pensacola, Mobile, Tampa,  New Orleans and Key West are directly threatened by the unfolding events.  Cities and regions along the Texas Coast and Mexico also remain remain at risk and share the unfortunate distinction of being in the probability cross hairs of suffering extreme toxic damage as a result of a hurricane.  Shipping lanes and the closure of ports due to oil contamination could impact America’s vital agricultural industry.  The moratorium on deep water drilling has placed pressure on the oils services sector and may impact the industries long term financial health.   The impact on the price of oil and refined petroleum products remains to be seen.

Highlights of the ADP  report include:

Estimates non-farm private employment in the service-providing sector increased by 55,000.

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 23,000

Employment in the manufacturing sector rose 15,000

Employment in the services sector rose 78,000.

Large businesses with 500 or more workers  added 3,000 jobs

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers increased by 39,000

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, increased by 13,000

Overview of Numbers

The net gain of 52,000 jobs in the small and mid-sized enterprise (SME) sector, compared to the creation of 3,000 jobs in large enterprises is a telling statistic about the changing topology of the US job market.   During the past decade, a large proportion of job growth occurred in the public and small mid-size enterprises (SME) sector.  Large businesses have led the way in implementing lean enterprises and have outsourced and off shored many jobs and business functions to accomplish this. Job creation by SME’s during the past month represented over 90% of new job creation.  America’s reinvention and economic renaissance must be led by the SME sector.  It is vital that capital formation initiatives and credit availability is positioned to foster the growth and development of the SME sector.

This months ADP report is an indication that the US economy continues at the bottom of an extreme down economic cycle.  The danger of a double dip recession unfortunately still lurks as a possibility.  The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the potential of market contagion from EU credit distress, China’s slowdown and the anemic rate of job creation in the wake of massive government expenditures and budget deficits presents continuing challenges to a sustained and robust recovery in the United States.

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 offers SME’s the Profit|Optimizer to help them manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

For information on the construction and use of the ADP Report, please visit the methodology section of the ADP National Employment Report website.

You Tube Video: Monty Python, Silly Job Interview

Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME

June 3, 2010 Posted by | ADP, Profit|Optimizer, risk management, Sum2, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Small Business Optimism Rising

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has just released the Small Business Economic Trends Report for May 2010. The report published since 1973 measures small business sentiment on numerous economic and business factors that confront small businesses.

This months report indicates that small business optimism is improving. The NFIB index rose 3.8 points in April.  The rise boosted the optimism Index above the 90 level for the first time in 21 months.  The NFIB Index has never registered  such a protracted  reading of negative sentiment in the four decade history of the index.

During April nine of the ten index components rose, an indication  of  improving conditions of most business factors.  The single exception  was employment sentiment which continued to signal small businesses remain cautious on creating new jobs.  Historically, small businesses have been the major driver in job creation following recessions.  The poor job creation reading by the index  continues to be a  contra indicator of economic recovery. Small business owners are by nature and temperament optimistic and the report indicates that small businesses are still very cautious about allocation capital for jobs to meet improving business conditions.

Highlights of the Report:

  • Jobs:   Average employment per firm was negative 0.18 in April.  Average employment has fallen each month since July 2008.   Eleven percent of survey respondents reported unfilled job openings.   During the next quarter 7 percent plan layoffs and 14 percent plan to create new jobs.
  • Credit: The index reports that 31 percent of regular borrowers  report difficulties in arranging credit.  A net 14 percent reported difficulty in getting loans.  Overall, 91 percent of the owners reported all their credit needs met or they did not need to access credit.  Only 4 percent of the owners reported finance as their top business problem (down 1 point).  Pre-1983, as many as 37 percent cited financing and interest rates as their top problem.
  • Profits: Respondents reported profits improved by 12 points in April.  14 percent reported profits higher (up 5 points), and 51 percent reported profits falling (down 7 points).   Of the owners reporting higher earnings, 57 percent cited stronger sales as the primary cause and 7 percent each credited lower labor costs, material costs and higher selling prices.   For those reporting lower earnings compared to the previous three months, 57 percent cited weaker sales, 4 percent blamed rising labor costs, 6 percent higher materials costs, 2 percent higher insurance costs, and 6 percent blamed lower selling prices.
  • Prices: Fifteen percent of respondents reported raising average selling prices, but 24 percent reported average price reductions.  April is the 17th consecutive month in which more owners reported cutting average selling prices that raising them.

Components of the Optimism Index include: Labor Markets, Capital Spending, Inventory and Sales, Inflation, Profits and Wages, Credit Markets

The NFIB Report can be downloaded from the Sum2 website. NFIB Optimism Index

The NFIB Research Foundation has collected Small Business Economic Trends Data with Quarterly surveys since 1973 and monthly surveys since1986. The sample is drawn from the membership files of the NFIB.

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 offers SME’s the Profit|Optimizer to  manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

Risk: sme, small business, economic recovery

May 11, 2010 Posted by | credit, Profit|Optimizer, small business, SME, Sum2 | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

ADP Reports Weak Job Growth

ADP has released its National Employment Report for April.   Non-farm private employment increased 32,000 during  the month on a seasonally adjusted basis.   ADP also reported an upward revision of 19,000 jobs for March.  The two consecutive net employment gains reported by ADP indicates that job loss may have bottomed and the slim increase in employment confirms a positive trend is underway.     The massive governmental intervention to recapitalize the banking sector and initiate stimulus programs have stabilized the economy.  The abatement of extreme risk aversion in the credit markets, favorable interest rates, improving consumer sentiment, low inflation and the dramatic rebound in securities markets are all positive growth drivers for the economy.

Highlights of the ADP  report include:

Estimates non-farm private employment in the service-providing sector increased by 50,000.

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 18,000.

Employment in the manufacturing sector rose for the third consecutive month by 29,000 jobs.

Employment in the construction sector dropped by 49,000.

Large businesses with 500 or more workers  added 14,000 jobs

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers increased by 17,000.

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, increased by 1,000 in April.

Employment in the financial services sector dropped 14,000, resulting in over three years of consecutive monthly
declines.

Overview of Numbers

The net gain of 32,000 jobs for the massive US economy is an admittedly weak gain for an economy that has shed 11 million jobs but it is an indication that the economy is stabilizing.

The correlation of the loss of jobs in construction and financial services is an indication of a US economy that continues to transition its dependency on residential and commercial real estate development.  The difficult conditions in the commercial and residential real estate market will continue as excess inventories brought on by high foreclosure rates continue to be worked off.   As the ADP report highlights construction employment has declined for thirty-nine consecutive months, bringing the total decline in construction jobs since the peak in January 2007 to 2,159,000.  Its clear that the US economy has lost two critical recovery drivers.

Soft conditions in the construction sector weighs heavily on small business job creation.  Most contractors are small businesses and with the anemic rate of new housing construction small business job creation will continue to be soft.

Specialty retail is another large component of the small business market.  Improving consumer sentiment will help this sector.  However small retailers have suffered massive business closures during the recession.  A robust recovery in this sector will not commence until commercial lending for start ups and business expansion becomes more readily available from the banks.

The report also indicates that the goods producing sector of small businesses shed 24,000 jobs during the month  to continue the trend in the deterioration of small manufactures.  This decline was offset by a 25,000 gain in service based jobs.  The  growth of the service sector of the US economy continues at the expense of the manufacturing sector.  The growth of small business service sector indicates that businesses continue to managed fixed costs of their business by outsourcing various services.

This ADP report is a positive indication that we may be at a bottom of the economic cycle.  Bottoms don’t mean that things are improving they indicate that conditions are not worsening.  The economic recovery is still confronted with headwinds.  The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the economic and growing political instability of EU countries and the cooling off of the Chinese economy may present some challenges to a sustained and robust recovery in the United States.

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 advocates the establishment of an SME Bank to sustain long term economic growth.  Sum2 offers SME’s the Profit|Optimizer to help them manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

For information on the construction and use of the ADP Report, please visit the methodology section of the ADP National Employment Report website.

You Tube Video: Isley Brothers, Work To Do

Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME

May 5, 2010 Posted by | ADP, banking, credit, manufacturing, real estate, recession, small business, SME, Uncategorized, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Deep is the Ocean?

The crisis in the credit markets is creating some new American superheroes. Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Geithner are today’s dynamic duo engaged in a titanic struggle with the evil forces of inflation, stagflation, a weak dollar and dysfunctional credit markets. Their mission is to keep the specter of a recession from reappearing again.

Their weapon of choice is a high octane capital swap, low interest generator and paper guarantee machine. The machine produces accelerated capital flows by pumping liquidity into credit channels faster than water surging through the Hoover Dam at the height of a Rocky Mountain snow melt.

Just as the great Colorado River brings life and growth to the parched deserts of the American southwest so to is liquidity the essential condition to sustain the economic viability of a corporate enterprise.

Liquidity concerns grow particularly close to the bone of small businesses. Liquidity is their bread of life and small businesses must master the fine art of liquidity management. Unlike large corporations and governments, the ability of small businesses to print money, tap commercial paper markets, leverage or sell assets or engage in other forms of exotic balance sheet alchemy is limited. So at the end of the day, when the payroll is due, a key supplier is waiting by the receptionist for a check and your best sales person is doing her best to close that huge new deal your anxiety grows a bit as you ponder your cash position and begin to project the next three months.

You call your local banker. You are a long standing and valued customer but “risk aversion” continues to creep into the discussion and they tell you that their funding sources have grown “risk averse” due to losses in the sub-prime mortgage market and finding new funding sources have been difficult. So for now at least the expansion of a credit facility with them is not an option.

You keep getting calls from those merchant finance companies that are offering short term loans but the prospect of paying usurious rates of 18%-30% on future credit card receivables will put a major dent in your profit margins. That makes this credit channel’s cost of operating capital prohibitively expensive.

That’s where risk management comes in. Many small business owners are masters at risk management. They are skilled entrepreneurs that put personal capital at risk. They got major skin into the game and that motivates them to continually evaluate how to protect their assets and maximize returns. Many small business owners are extremely gifted at leveraging assets to address opportunities. Assets such as monetary capital, people, intellectual capital, suppliers, facilities and products are routinely utilized to enhance and extend liquidity. But as credit markets tighten all small businesses need to become more aware of preserving liquidity. This can be accomplished by incorporating a few simple risk management practices.

A good place to start is to make sure your systems and business processes are optimized to support efficiencies. Many of the traditional cash management techniques are well known. Small business accounting software and the availability of internet banking tools are a great help to small businesses. These tools help to extend and manage payment cycles, match assets to liabilities and a good banker will help you develop specific strategies and practices to address these issues and improve your cash position.

Another area to consider is to arbitrage credit providers. Obviously this tactic works great during times of enhanced liquidity but credit channels are still vibrant and the market is crowed with numerous providers and products. Though it is true that as more participants enter markets they tend to become more efficient resulting in small spreads the volatility of the credit markets can work to your advantage. If you can replace a line of merchant finance credit with a bank offered facility you will increase your margins by the spread of the savings.

Sources of capital leakage from the company are a major threat to liquidity. Small business managers must be aware of how to assess this risk factor and how to minimize potential damage it can cause. By “leakage” of enterprise capital we mean to suggest that capital invested by the business did not create an acceptable rate of return. A concerted approach to assessing and managing risk factors preserves liquidity, builds equity and a strong balance sheet.

The principal villains that contribute to capital leakage are poor cash management and inappropriate, non-prioritized or misdirected capital allocation initiatives. These initiatives are acquisitions or projects requiring the investment of time, money, personal energy and corporate resource that do not produce an optimal rate of return.

Small businesses need to incorporate opportunity cost in determining ROI on business initiatives. This is because a small business must limit the number of projects it can engage. It must be certain that current projects will build greater value for the business then the project it declined to pursue. An understanding of value at risk (VaR) is also a useful metric to determine what initiative or project will mitigate the greatest risk and produce the greatest return on capital expenditures.

Risk assessment is a powerful opportunity discovery exercise that requires intentionality and discipline. Many small business owners do these assessments in their head and make decisions based on gut feeling or intuition. An opportunity discovery methodology that walks you through an objective assessment of risk factors is a wonderful complement to the fine tuned business instinct of the small business owner.

Lastly, small businesses need to focus on their most profitable products, best clients and key suppliers within their most promising markets. This may seem obvious but many businesses are reluctant to alter their business models to accommodate this blatant reality. Inertia, culture and ego are the principle culprits and ironically clients, products, suppliers and markets pose some of the greatest risks to small businesses.

It is true that a rising tide lifts all boats. We have just experienced one of the greatest economic expansions in the history of the global economy. It’s been a great run. But the party is over. The era of an unending flow of easy credit and cheap capital is over for now. Until happy days return again we must adapt and protect our solvency through effective liquidity management practices. During times of economic uncertainty and distress it’s a great opportunity to build financial health through effective risk management because when the tide goes out the rudderless businesses captained by poor stewards will crash upon the rocks and get beached on unforeseen shoals or sink into the depths of the unforgiving briny deep.

You Tube Music Video:  Billie Holiday,  How Deep is the Ocean?

Risk: credit, small business,  SME, recession, liquidity

April 29, 2010 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, risk management, small business, SME | , , , , , | 1 Comment

NFIB Small Business Optimism Report for April

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has just released the Small Business Economic Trends Report for April 2010. The report published since 1973 measures small business sentiment on numerous economic and business factors that confront small businesses.

This months report indicates a decline in business optimism. The NFIB index fell 1.2 points in March to 86.8 That’s up from the lows of March 2009, but has been below 90 for 18 months. The report reading is a contra indicator of economic recovery.  Small business owners are by nature and temperament optimistic and the report provides a sobering insight into the mind of US entrepreneurs and risk takers.

Highlights of the Report:

  • Jobs: After a devastating period of employment reductions, employment change per firm hit the “zero line” in March, setting the stage for a resumption in job creation. Nine percent (seasonally adjusted) reported unfilled job openings, down two points, a “negative” for hope that the unemployment rate will fall. Over the next three months, seven percent plan to reduce employment (down one point), and 15 percent plan to create new jobs (up
    two points), yielding a seasonally adjusted net negative two percent of owners planning to create new jobs, weaker than February and still more firms planning to cut jobs than planning to add.
  • Credit: Regular NFIB borrowers (35 percent accessing capital markets at least once a quarter) continued to report difficulties in arranging credit. A net 15 percent reported loans harder to get than in their last attempt, up three points from February. Eighty-nine (89) percent of the owners reported all their credit needs met or they did not want to borrow. Historically weak plans to make capital expenditures, to add to inventory and expand operations also make it clear that many good borrowers are simply on the sidelines, waiting for a good reason to make capital outlays and order inventory and take out the usual loans used to support these activities. Only five percent of the owners reported “finance” as their top business problem (up two points). Pre-1983, as many as 37 percent cited financing and interest rates as their top problem. What businesses need is sales, giving them a reason to hire and make capital expenditures and borrow to support those activities.
  • Profits: Reports of positive profit trends worsened by four points in March, registering a net negative 43 percentage points (39 points worse than the best expansion reading reached in 2005). The persistence of this imbalance is bad news for the small business community. Profits are important for the support of capital spending. For those reporting lower earnings compared to the previous three months (58 percent, up three points), 62 percent cited weaker sales, two percent blamed rising labor costs, five percent higher materials costs, three percent higher insurance costs, and seven percent blamed lower selling prices. Five percent blamed taxes and regulatory costs. Owners continued to reduce compensation at historically high rates, with 10 percent reporting reduced worker compensation and 10 percent reporting gains. Seasonally adjusted, a net zero percent reported raising worker compensation, only two points better than February’s record low reading of negative two percent.
  • Prices: The weak economy continued to put downward pressure on prices.  Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners raising prices was a negative 20 percent, one point better than last month. Plans to raise prices fell one point to a net seasonally adjusted nine percent of owners. On the cost side, five percent of owners cited inflation as their number one problem (e.g. costs coming in the “back door” of the business) and only three percent cited the cost of labor, so neither labor costs no r materials costs are pressuring owners.

Components of the Optimism Index include: Labor Markets, Capital Spending, Inventory and Sales, Inflation, Profits and Wages, Credit Markets

The NFIB Report can be downloaded from the Sum2 website. NFIB Optimism Index

The NFIB Research Foundation has collected Small Business Economic Trends Data with Quarterly surveys since 1973 and monthly surveys since1986. The sample is drawn from the membership files of the NFIB.

You Tube Music Video: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Couldn’t Stand the Weather

Risk: sme, small business, economic recovery

April 27, 2010 Posted by | recession, small business, SME, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Day Rising: ADP Employment Report

Rising Sun Taft McWhorter

ADP has released its National Employment Report for January.   Non-farm private employment decreased 22,000 during  the month on a seasonally adjusted basis.   The ADP report indicates that job loss is decelerating.   Many believe that the massive governmental intervention to recapitalize the banking sector and stimulus programs extending unemployment benefits and the provision of funding aid to state governments are key elements that are helping to stabilize the economy.

Highlights of the ADP  report include:

January’s ADP Report estimates non-farm private employment in the service-providing sector increased by 38,000, the second consecutive monthly increase.

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 60,000, with employment in the manufacturing sector dropping 25,000.

The employment decline in the manufacturing sector was the lowest since January of 2008.

Large businesses, defined as those with 500 or more workers, saw employment decline by 19,000 while small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, declined 12,000.

Employment among medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers, increased by 9,000, the first increase in employment since January of 2008.

Employment in the financial services sector dropped 16,000.

Construction employment dropped 37,000. This drop marks the third straight year of consecutive monthly employment declines and brings the total decline in construction jobs since the peak in January 2007 to 1,804,000.

Sum2 advocates the establishment of an SME Bank to sustain long term economic growth.

For information on the construction and use of the ADP Report, please visit the methodology section of the ADP National Employment Report website.

You Tube Video: Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, You Are My Sunshine

Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, political

February 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NFIB Reports Decline in Small Business Optimism

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has just released the Small Business Economic Trends Report for January 2010.  The report published since 1973 measures small business sentiment on numerous economic and business factors that confront small businesses.

This months report indicates a decline in business optimism.  The NFIB index fell 0.3 points in December to 88. That’s up from the lows of March 2009, but has been below 90 for 15 months. “Optimism has clearly stalled in spite of the improvements in the economy,” the NFIB said.

Highlights Reported by Forbes Digital:

  • Jobs: 10% of the owners increased employment (the highest reading of 2009), but 22% reduced employment (seasonally adjusted). Over the next three months, 15% plan to reduce employment (down two points), and 8% plan to create new jobs (up one point), yielding a seasonally adjusted net-negative 2% of owners planning to create new jobs, a one-point improvement from November.
  • Credit: Regular borrowers (accessing capital markets at least once a quarter) continued to report difficulties in arranging credit at the highest frequency since 1983. A net 15% reported loans harder to get than in their last attempt, unchanged from November. Although “that is not nearly as severe as the financial distress reported in the pre-1983 period, 24 months of recession have sapped the financial strength of many small firms,” Dunkelberg said. Eight percent of all owners reported that their borrowing needs were not satisfied, down two points from November. The remaining 92% of all owners either obtained the credit they wanted or were not interested in borrowing.  Only 4% of the owners reported finance as their number one business problem (down one point).
  • Profits: 54% reported lower earnings compared to the previous three months. Of those, 65% cited weaker sales, 4% each blamed rising labor costs, higher materials costs and higher insurance costs, while 6% blamed lower selling prices. Poor real sales and price cuts are responsible for much of the weakness in profits.
  • Prices: 10% of the owners reported raising average selling prices, but 33% reported price reductions yielding a net-negative 22% (seasonally adjusted) of owners who cut prices in December. Plans to raise prices fell one point to a seasonally adjusted net 3% of owners, 35 points below the July 2008 reading. “The weak economy continued to put downward pressure on prices,” said Dunkelberg. “Widespread price cutting contributed to the reports of lower nominal sales.”
  • Costs: On the cost side, the percent of owners citing inflation as their number one problem (e.g. costs coming in the “back door” of the business) fell two points to 2%, and only 3% cited the cost of labor.

Components of the Optimism Index include: Labor Markets, Capital Spending, Inventory and Sales, Inflation, Profits and Wages, Credit Markets

The NFIB Report can be downloaded from the Sum2 website.  NFIB Optimism Index

The NFIB Research Foundation has collected Small Business Economic Trends Data with Quarterly surveys since 1973 and monthly surveys since1986. The sample is drawn from the membership files of the NFIB.

You Tube Music Video: Louis Armstrong, Sunny Side of the Street

January 12, 2010 Posted by | business, commerce, credit, credit crisis, recession, SME | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment