Operating earnings as a percentage of sales in 2015 were lower than in the prior year, mostly due to changes in currency translation rates and lower margins from acquired operations. Changes in currency translation rates reduced operating earnings by approximately $32 million in 2015.
Held Separate Investment (Income)
There was no held separate investment income in 2016. Held separate investment income in 2015 included $150 million of pre-tax gain on the sale of Liquid Finishing business assets, net of transaction and other related expenses, and dividends of $42 million. Dividends received from Liquid Finishing totaled $28 million in 2014.
The effective tax rate for 2016 was 58 percent, including approximately 28 percentage points related to the impairment charge, compared to 27 percent in 2015. Last year’s rate included favorable impacts of non-recurring tax benefits and post-tax dividend income, partially offset by the tax rate effects of the gain on the sale of Liquid Finishing business assets. The net increase in effective rate from those items was partially offset by additional 2016 benefit from foreign earnings being taxed at lower rates than the U.S.
The effective tax rate for 2015 was 27 percent, down from 28 percent in 2014. A change in the Company’s assertion with respect to reinvestment of foreign earnings decreased deferred income taxes related to undistributed foreign earnings by $7 million and reduced the effective tax rate for the year. Higher post-tax dividend income, favorable effects of lower tax rates on foreign earnings, and an additional non-recurring tax benefit of $2 million further reduced the effective tax rate for the year. Those reductions were partially offset by the tax rate effects of the gain on the sale of the Liquid Finishing business assets.
The Company has six operating segments which are aggregated into three reportable segments: Industrial, Process and Contractor. Refer to Part I Item 1. Business, for a description of the Company’s three reportable segments. Management assesses performance of segments by reference to operating earnings excluding unallocated corporate expenses and asset impairments.
The following table presents net sales and operating earnings by reporting segment (in millions):
Unallocated corporate (expense) (1)
Unallocated corporate (expense) includes such items as stock compensation, divestiture and certain acquisition transaction costs, bad debt expense, charitable contributions, non-service cost portions of pension expense and certain central warehouse expenses. Unallocated corporate expenses in 2016 were consistent with the prior year. Unallocated corporate expenses increased by $5 million in 2015 compared to 2014, including increases in stock compensation, pension cost and central warehouse expense, partially offset by decreases in acquisition transaction costs and charitable contributions.
The non-cash impairment charge recorded in 2016 related to assets of our Oil and Natural Gas reporting unit included within the Process Segment. Refer to Critical Accounting Estimates for more discussion on the impairment charge.