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Jack Ranger

Tapping the Wall Street Wire

(18 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 46, 18 November 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

With price controls fast fading, this column may shortly discontinue its weekly report of price boosts granted by the Office of Price Administration. Anyway, here is the record for the week: Mattresses, ceilings increased 9 per cent; refrigerators, increases granted; radio tubes, up 14 per cent; increases on low-cost rayon and cotton dresses; imported leathers, up 10–16 per cent; Colorado coal, up 10 cents a ton; linseed oil, up 1.7 cents a pound; children’s knit sleeping garments, up 30 per cent; asphalt and tarred roofing, up 13 cents a hundredweight; lath, up SI a thousand; enameled cast-iron plumbing fixtures, up 11.5 per cent. Prices of canned pineapple and juice rose 10 per cent. Among the items decontrolled were edible and inedible oils, ice, fats, most consumer durable goods such as radios, lamps, small electric appliances, cosmetics, rubber drug supplies, paper supplies, and hardwood logs. With price control removed from all shoes, hides, skins and leather, OPA predicted a 30 per cent increase in shoe prices.

“Dismal Reading”

The mad dance of the profiteers continues. But a disturbing note intrudes itself in the picture. “Recent unpublicized marketing surveys on ‘consumer resistance’ make dismal reading,” reports the Wall Street Journal. They show that many a line of products is in danger of being priced out of a substantial part of its market.”... As an indication – prices of raw fur have been off 10–30 per cent in recent weeks, raising a danger signal for other luxury goods. The silver fox cape that Mr. Feverish was going to buy his girl friend will have to wait. Mr. Feverish’s stocks and his holdings in cotton have taken a rude jolt in recent weeks ... The masses don’t buy expensive furs. They buy things like meat – but not at today’s prices. Right across the continent comes story after story relating how housewifely resistance to high prices is forcing the meat trust to pare its prices.

A Look at Profits

It takes a colossal gall and conceit for Big Business to oppose wage increases these days. For profits have never been so high in most industries. U.S. Steel, for instance, had a third quarter net profit of $33 millions, compared with a net of only $11 millions for the corresponding period in 1945. Shipments of steel products were the highest since June 1929 ... Let’s take one of the great department stores of the world, Marshall Field & Co., of Chicago. It reports a net income in the third quarter of $3,046,989, or $1.49 a share, against $1,033,819, or 45 cents a share, a year earlier. Profit in the nine months ended September 30 was over $10 million, compared with $3½ million last year ... Or take a woolen company, Botany Worsted Mills. Earnings for the first nine months totaled $2,302,788, compared with $817,891 for the entire year of 1945. Dividends this year should equal $13 on 100,000 shares of B stock, compared with a dividend of $8.43 on only 50,000 shares in 1945 ... Here’s another company that availed itself of tax credits from the ever-generous government. General Electric Co. took itself a credit of $4.8 million in the first nine months for federal taxes on income, and is back in the black, despite that nine-weeks’ strike in the first quarter. The government, in short, underwrote the company resistance to union demands.

100 Corporations

The Civilian Production Administration, in Its final report on war industry facilities, reports that 100 corporations operated 60 per cent of the country’s war-built industrial plant. Some 75 large manufacturers managed almost $14 billion of the $22 billion expansion in manufacturing facilities, and 25 railways and utilities managed $2.5 billion out of the $6 billion expansion in industrial service facilities. Heading the manufacturers list were du Pont de Nemours and General Motors, each with more than $1 billion worth of war facilities added to pre-war production capacity. A.T.&T., with almost $400 million in new facilities, topped the list of industrial service expansions. War plants added about one-third in terms of plant space and equipment to the country’s prewar manufacturing facilities.


What is believed to be the highest ratio stock split-up on record is in the making. The Book-of-the-Month Club plans to split its 400 shares of no-par value on a 2,000-for-l basis, creating 800,000 shares of $1.25 par. In addition, the company has 100 authorized but unissued shares which are to be changed into another 800,000 shares, at a ratio of 8,000-to-l. The company showed net profits for the first seven months of 1946 of $921,775, compared with a net profit of $778,850 for the entire year of 1945.


Though the war has been over for more than a year, most of southern California’s aircraft factories are cloaked in denser secrecy than in wartime. If is even more difficult for an outsider to get in, reports the Wall Street Journal. An officer of Northrop Aircraft estimates that about three-fourths of the company’s capital investment and personnel are engaged in military work. An official of North American said the same. Lockheed, Douglas, Consolidated Vultee and Ryan all have sizable secret military protects under way. Latest official figures for the whole industry show a military backlog at close to $650 million, compared with $473 million for commercial aircraft.


A recent survey for the Federal Reserve Board showed that total asset holdings of three-fourths of the American people amount to less than one-fifth of their annual income. Or. in the words of Raymond Rodgers, N.Y. University professor of banking, “disregarding unemployment insurance and assistance from relatives and friends, 2.4 months of unemployment will put 75 per cent of our people on relief.”

The margin between the present artificial “prosperity” and a depression that would shake the world to its foundations is just that thin. No wonder those who profit most from the present system are gloomy. One of them is Paul Hoffman, president of Studebaker Corporation and chairman of the Committee for Economic Development. “The principle cause for concern,” he says, “is the fact that so many businessmen accept recession as inevitable.”

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