Companies – even new ones – appear to be giving capital spending the brush off, but it may just be that the capex isn't getting counted because your kid is playing with it, UBS said.
"The failure of capital spending to pick up is one of the oft lamented features of the current economic recovery," Paul Donovan, an economist at UBS, said in a note this week. "This sluggish capital spending story is peculiar because it has been accompanied by a significant increase in the number of businesses in many economies."
Starting businesses without start-up capital spending appears a bit "peculiar," he noted, but it added that it doesn't take into account the technological shift over the past 20 years to portable devices.
"A laptop or a tablet device can easily provide the basic requirements for an employee," Donovan said. "The fact that a tablet has to be wrestled out of the hands of a five-year-old child playing games before it can be used for inventory management does not deny the value of that tablet as capital stock."
But while personal electronics may be getting used for work, bean counters are still going to count them as consumer spending, not capex, he noted.
Indeed, consumer spending on technology is increasing relative to business investment in the segment in the U.S., the U.K. and many European economies, Donovan said.