US Employers Sit on Huge Piles of Cash

Morning Business Memo…

Today's employment report from the Labor Department is the most closely watched monthly economic survey and is expected to be by far the biggest concern for the stock market today. If the number of new jobs created last month comes in somewhere above 160,000 and below 200,000, investors may be happy. But a very strong report could re-ignite fears of interest rate hikes and an early end to the Federal Reserve's bond buying program. A weak survey would add to speculation growth is slowing down. The Dow Jones index gained 80 points yesterday after losses during the two previous days.

The jobs market has improved in the past year, but unemployment is still way above average levels. Brian Hamilton, CEO of the financial research firm Sageworks says businesses are very cautious. "Not only are companies not really hiring a ton but they're not borrowing a bunch either." Most firms have solid balance sheets. "The default rate for private companies is going down meaning they're much more credit worthy and they're much more solvent."

But Hamilton says companies and their senior executives are also risk averse. "They really are just reluctant to take on overhead much more so than in the past." Hamilton's views are echoed in a new report from Federal Reserve, which says US firms are sitting on a record pile of cash. Nonfinancial corporations held $1.78 trillion in cash and other liquid assets in the first three months of this year.

A win for the big drug company GlaxoSmithKline. An FDA panel has recommended modifying safety restrictions on the diabetes drug Avandia. The decision is an about-face by regulators several years after concerns about heart attack risk led to restrictions on use of the drug. A majority of Food and Drug Administration advisers voted to change measures that currently limit patient access to Avandia. The pill was once the best-selling diabetes drug in the world, but sales plummeted after heart attack concerns emerged in 2007. In 2010 the FDA limited access to Avandia and European regulators banned it.

At last! American households have finally reclaimed all the wealth they lost when home and stock values collapsed after the 2008 financial crisis. The Federal Reserve says household wealth reached an all-time high of $70.4 trillion in the first quarter. That's slightly more than the previous high reached in the last three months of 2007 - just before the recession. However, the gain does not take account of inflation and population growth. The wealthiest 10 percent of households clawed back more of their wealth than others. "Most families have recovered much less than the average amount," says the report by the St. Louis Fed.

Toyota has rolled out a sleek-looking new version of the Corolla. The aging, stodgy but reliable economy car, is getting a makeover. The world's largest automaker rolled out a Corolla at an event in Santa Monica, Calif. Toyota is hoping to shed the old version's low-cost image and attract new, younger buyers to its brand

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio Twitter: daviesabc