While consumers may be about to invest in themselves with a new $349 Apple (AAPL) Homepod or $82,000 Tesla (TSLA) Model X, the fact U.S. businesses continue to under-invest in their future is a problem all stock bulls should ponder.
For if companies aren't investing in new plants and other structures -- otherwise known as capex -- they run the risk of disappointing Wall Street with their earnings. And when that happens, stock prices run the risk of getting hammered (especially at today's lofty valuations). Non-residential fixed investment, while having ticked up this year with the economy still chugging along, remains well below the prior U.S. economic expansion from 2002 to 2007. It also lags behind the ten years of growth that preceded the tech bubble explosion.
What companies do continue to invest in is stock buybacks, as seen below in a chart from Yardeni Research. With many executive compensation plans still pegged to stock price performance, not a longer term metric like returns on investment, it's probably not a surprise to see money being plowed into buybacks.
Selling the future for immediate pleasure today will likely blow up in the face of Corporate America. It's not if, but when.
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Editor's Pick: Originally published June 6.