Apple, Microsoft top lists of cash-rich firms. Comparing the size of companies' mounting piles of cash has become somewhat of a pastime for investors.
Coming off the worst recession since the Great Depression, companies need some extra cash on hand. But, given that interest rates are so low, it's actually a financial drag on companies' performance to sit on huge amounts of cash. The amount of cash that's appropriate for a company to hold has turned into a battle between Apple shareholder David Einhorn and Apple.
But however investors feel about cash and how much companies should have, it's wise to monitor cash levels at companies. The definition of cash can vary a bit, though. Investors who only include actual greenbacks and short-term investments would consider the biggest cash piles by non-financial companies to include: Microsoft, Google and Cisco with $68.1 billion, $48.1 billion and $46.4 billion, respectively, says a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ. But investors who tally cash, short-term investments and long-term investments would have a different list, including Apple, Microsoft and Google of $137.1 billion, $78.8 billion and $49.6 billion, respectively.
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