When Inequality Goes Corporate

By Heisenberg

One of the oft-cited reasons for the populist fervor that swept Donald Trump into the White House and now threatens to push Europe into a kind of neo-nationalist hell complete with institutionalized xenophobia and massive sovereign defaults (in the event of redenominations), is creeping inequality.

The “downtrodden masses” aren’t properly represented and they need a voice. Or so the story goes (never mind the absurdity of that “voice” emanating from a braggadocious billionaire who quite literally constructs golden monuments to himself).

This inequality shows up in charts like these, from Goldman:

gs

(Goldman)

Well as it turns out, inequality and the plight of the “little guy” doesn’t just apply to people. As SocGen writes in a new piece out Monday, “increasingly the concept of inequality is starting to be applied within the corporate world.”

Here’s are some short excerpts and two charts for you to consider.

Via SocGen

The topic of wealth inequality is being increasingly applied to the corporate world. The largest companies are seen as being so powerful and profitable that they suppress competition, depress wages and generally make the process of wealth distribution uneven. There appears to be a case. While margins at the average US company have been under pressure, the most successful US stocks have sustained their profitability and been afforded ever higher valuations in the process. Numerous studies seek to show US industry concentration to be intensifying around a few key firms. Critics also highlight the lack of new firm creation and point to record low levels of IPO activity in recent years as indicators of stifled entrepreneurship.

socgen1

Smaller company performance has been challenging and an equal-weighted universe of S&P 500 stocks has systematically outperformed average US companies from 2003 onward, indicating that the smaller companies were struggling versus the biggest stocks long before quantitative easing, the financial crisis and the rotation from active to passive. In recent years this performance gap has widened. Worryingly those small caps appear to be also embracing leverage in an attempt to narrow the gap

socgen2

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