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U.S. nonbank cash holdings at record high $1.65 trln-Moody's

NEW YORK, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Corporate America's cash stockpile increased to a record $1.65 trillion in mid-2014 from $1.64 trillion at the end of 2013, although the pace of growth has slowed sharply, Moody's Investors Service said on Monday.

The top 50 U.S. companies excluding banks and other financial companies held $1.02 trillion in cash, or 62 percent of the total. Each of these 50 firms had at least $5.7 billion in cash, Moody's said.

"U.S. corporate cash balances continue to grow on the back of modest economic expansion," Richard Lane, Moody's senior vice president, said in a statement.

The rate of growth in cash balances has slowed to 1 percent in the first half of 2014 compared with an annual average of 14 percent since 2009, he noted.

Companies have used more of their money on capital investments, dividends, share repurchases and acquisitions, Lane said.

More companies are also expected to increase shareholder distributions, prompted in part by activist investors, Moody's said. Last week, billionaire Carl Icahn said shares of iPhone maker Apple Inc could double in value and urged the company's board to buy back more shares.

The top five cash holders were all technology companies whose combined holding was $415 billion, or about a quarter of the total. This compared with $392 billion, or 24 percent, at the end of 2013, Moody's said.

In mid-2014, Apple led the pack with $165 billion in cash, or 10 percent of the total, followed by Microsoft Corp, Google Inc, Cisco Systems Inc and Oracle Corp .

On an industry basis, the technology sector held the most cash at $564 billion, followed by healthcare and pharmaceuticals with $205 billion, Moody's said.

Money held overseas includes about $1 trillion, or 61 percent of the total, up from $950 billion or 58 percent at the end of 2013, according to the ratings agency.

(Reporting by Richard Leong, editing by G Crosse)