Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

twenty-eight bills introduced in the Upper House or Executive Council twenty-two became laws. One bill was vetoed. Considerable opposition has been aroused among the people by the passage of the so-called Hollander Tax Law. Porto Rico has never had a land tax embodied in her financial system. Professor Hollander, the treasurer of the island, introduced such a measure and after considerable opposition it was finally passed. A mass meeting, composed of over two thousand Porto Ricans from all classes, especially the land owners, from all sections of the island met on the afternoon and evening of February 3, and appointed a committee of fifteen to bring the injustice of the law to the attention of the American Congress and to have the measure nullified.

V. INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE. Review of American Stock Market. The period of lethargy through which the stock market passed has given way to one of remarkable activity. For the three months prior to the election the total number of shares of stock sold was 15,421,113, while the sales for October and November aggregated 33,460,419 shares. For the first two weeks of December the sales amounted to 8, 244,504 shares; or a total of 41,704,923 since the election.

This enormous increase in the volume of business naturally resulted in enhanced values in securities. Taking a list of twenty-five of the most active stocks as a basis for calculations the stock market shows a gain of about fifteen points since November 3. Many securities have shown greater increase, especially among those in the highly speculative list, while the most conservative investment securities have shown advances of but three or four points.

During the early part of this month securities fell, due to a rise in the call-loan rate. The securities most affected were again the speculative list. This is again explained by the large increase in the volume of marginal trading, which is invariably present in a buoyant market.

Many writers have taken an extremely pessimistic view of the situation, and have their eyes focused upon a panic in the stock market. Although the rate of dividend upon the major portion of securities does not warrant a decided rise above present quotations, there are no elements in the situation at present which presage a panic, or even a marked fall in quotations.

When values do fall, those most affected will be the margin traders; the investor will not be frightened into selling, for he recognizes the fact that these occasional “slumps" are the result of a desire to buy on the part of the insiders.

Generally the situation is most gratifying. Aside from the fear of a rise in the call-loan rate there are no disturbing elements.

Our favorable balance of trade will bring gold to this country in case of stringency, and the Treasury will probably lend its assistance if the coudition demands it.

The contemplated deal looking toward the combination of large coal interests, which is being superintended by J. P. Morgan & Co., will, if successful, result in an advance in the price of the securities of all the roads affected.

A feature of the present situation which is worthy of special mention is the increased demand for bonds. This is most encouraging, as 1 Contributed by Mr. L. B. Wolf.

[ocr errors]

a

it clearly proves that the business man is making profits and desires a safe investment for them. He displays his wisdom by not speculating in securities about which he has but scanty knowledge. The presence of the conservative investor in the market is always reassuring.

Events in the Railroad World. There are certain movements which began over a year ago which must be explained and understood before the significance of recent events can be seen. Among the most conspicuous of these is the development of the “community of ownership” idea, which started with the deal between the Vanderbilts and the Pennsylvania Railroad, and is gradually spreading to all parts of the country. The first important result of this deal, which was for the purpose of controlling the railroad situation between Chicago and the Atlantic seaboard, was the ordering of a general advance in freight rates last January. This ranged from 10 to 15 per cent in many classes of traffic, and produced the greatest results in bituminous coal, which had long been carried at very small profit. The advance of this article ranged from fifteen to twenty-five cents a ton on all the Eastern lines, and when followed by the purchase of a large interest in three bituminous roads by the Pennsylvania Company, creating a sharp rise in the securities of all carriers of soft coal, it made possible dividends by many roads whose outlook was previously not bright.

The development of the community of ownership idea was instanced very prominently in November, when it became known that the Great Northern, the Union Pacific and the Northern Pacific railroads had made an alliance through an interchange of stock which will result in a cessation of competition and the abolition of needless expenses, including the consolidation of the competing Pacific steamship lines. it was evidenced again during the same month in the election of the first and third vice-presidents of the Pennsylvania Railroad to positions as directors of the Baltimore & Ohio. About the same time the Southern Railway bought the St. Louis Air Line, increasing its own mileage to 7,260 miles, and giving the shortest road by forty-three miles between Louisville and St. Louis. Early in November the New York Central absorbed the Boston and Albany by securing a lease for ninety-nine years. By the addition of 202 miles of main and 187 miles of branch and leased lines, the New York Central is now able to send its western freight directly in and out of Boston.

In no stronger way could this co-operation idea have been emphasized, however, than in the early part of December, when J. P. Morgan & Co., for the Erie Railroad, bought the Pennsylvania Coal Company, which was the backer of a projected new anthracite coal Contributed by Ferdinand H. Graser.

line to Kingston. With the purchase of this stock, the Erie became a coal owner as well as a coal carrier, and it would seem that the anthracite combine has fully secured itself in control. The entrance of James J. Hill, of the Great Northern, into the Erie directorate on the day following the purchase, opened the way for a coalition of interests between William K. Vanderbilt, J. Pierpont Morgan, A. J. Cassatt, Mr. Hill and James Speyer. The roads controlled by this coalition are the Baltimore & Ohio-Erie combination; the New York Central-Pennsylvania combination, which includes the Delaware & Lackawanna, the Reading and the Ontario & Western, among the anthracite coalers; and the Chesapeake & Ohio and Norfolk & Western among the bituminous roads, with the Southern Railway, the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey Central, and the Delaware & Hudson. From this time, the anthracite roads may be operated on a more economical basis. Under the control of a group of financiers, it will simply be a question of how much hard coal the market will absorb at uniform prices.

Community of ownership is the product of a natural evolution. Rates had been going lower and lower, and the laws will not allow railroads to pool traffic. The only alternative was for strong interests to secure a foothold in various properties. The year closed with a majority of railroad stocks at the highest point in their history.

[blocks in formation]

The death of Henry Villard, on November 12, removed another of the chiefs of the era of great railway construction. Under his presidency, the Northern Pacific was successfully financed to completion in 1883. A few months after this triumphal opening, the road suffered financial collapse, carrying down with it the president's fortune. But he retained the confidence of European investors, and six years later was again at the head of the property. The panic of 1893 again dragged the company down, and since then Mr. Villard has led comparatively a retired life as proprietor of the New York Evening Post.

[blocks in formation]

There was great outcry in September when the steel-rail trust fixed the price of rails at $26 a ton, and it was loudly proclaimed that railroads would not buy at that price. The Pennsylvania Railroad began the buying almost immediately, however, with an order for 50,000 tons, and there has been no cessation of orders, both large and small, since that time, at the price fixed.

[blocks in formation]

Iu the latter part of November the first cargo of Western grain by a new Canadian route was shipped from the Great Northern Railway elevator in Quebec, for Liverpool. By this route grain is brought from Duluth by lake steamers to Parry Sound, on Georgiau Bay, where it is taken out of the vessels at deep-water berths alongside an elevator of a million and a quarter bushels' capacity, and placed directly aboard cars for Quebec. Eight hundred miles of distance is thus cut off by diverting the grain from Buffalo and New York.

Exploitation of Stockholders.-Indications are accumulating that the stockholders of the recently formed industrials are to pass through the same ordeal of exploitation, which railway stockholders have so often experienced. When these companies were organized, two facts were brought forward in evidence of their financial strength and stability: (1) the large holdings of preferred stock by insiders, (2) their small indebtedness. These advantages possessed by the industrials were justly considered of great value. Without a bonded debt they could not become insolvent, and the interests of the preferred stockholders could be served in no other way than by fair, wise and honorable management. Since the election, however, the insiders, that is to say, those who were prominent in organizing the industrials, and who from their experience and standing, as well as on account of their stockholdings, have been retained in control, have very generally unloaded their preferred stock upon the unsophisticated public, thus destroying one safeguard against interested mismanagement. At the same time there is abundant talk of bond issues for extensions and improvements. The recent purchase of 75,000 acres of coal lands in Southwestern Pennsylvania is reported to have been on account of the steel trust, the purchase price having been in some cases four times the face of the option, and although it cannot be proven, past experience inclines strongly to the opinion that those in control of the company were active on both sides of the transaction. A more apparent operation was the attempt of Mr. John W. Gates, and his associates in the control of the American Steel and Wire Company, to secure a large issue of bonds for the purpose of purchasing from them a fleet of ore boats at a price which, it has been proven, was more than twice their cost to the promoters of the transaction. Reports of similar transactions are heard in reference to other companies. These operations have for their object the enriching of directors and their friends at the expense of the general body of stockholders. Those in control take advantage of their position of trust and responsibility to mulct the owners and endanger the company. The result is that corporations thus maltreated are burdened with debt for which no adequate equivalent in increased earning power is obtained. If persisted in, such practices inevitably lead to bankruptcy. The over-capitalization of many American railroads, which has been the most important factor in producing our several

« ZurückWeiter »