Instead of holding onto cash, tech firms such as Monster, Palm, Intuit, EarthLink and MetroPCS in recent years bought something called auction-rate securities. Basically — very basically — that means these companies loaned out around $856 million because banks told them they'd earn more than they would just holding on to the cash. Only thing is now, with the credit markets being what they are — crappy — no one else wants to buy the rights to collect on those loans. So all that cash is sewn up in paper. That could soon hurt because the companies are going to need that cash eventually, an exec at one Wall Street trading firm told the WSJ. And when they do, he said, they should expect "a steep loss."
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