The key to good business writing is the frame. In other words, how do you take arcane figures and put them into an easy-to-understand context that's smart, useful and memorable?
Our friends at Quartz nailed that task today, with a post titled "The US Fed had a greater profit than Apple and Exxon combined last year."
Catchy headline: check. Interesting topic: check.
The Federal Reserve turned a profit last year of $89 billion dollars, its best year in history.
As Quartz points out, the combined profits of Apple and Exxon — America's two most profitable companies — top a little more than $82 billion.
So how did the Fed do it?
Economic crisis, of course.
Here's how Quartz explained it:
"You can see profits surged in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Thats when the Fed started various programs to create new money and use it each month to buy billions of dollars of bonds issued by government-backed entities. Those bonds earn interest income, totaling about $81 billion in 2012. Other sources of Federal Reserve profits include sales of some of the once-rotten financial assets that it bought from banks during the financial crisis (netting $6.1 billion last year) and sales of some Treasury bonds ($13.3 billion), including those sold as part of its 'Operation Twist' program."
By law, the Fed must turn that money over to the US Treasury Department, so don't expect any iPads or oil wells to gush forth any time soon.