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The determinants of business investment: has capital spending been surprisingly low?

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  • Richard W. Kopcke
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    Abstract

    Many are worried that since 1980 capital investment by businesses has been lower than expected. Unusual circumstances, such as changes in savings patterns or in business leverage, a credit crunch, or widespread adoption of a shorter-term outlook, have been suggested as culprits. To see whether investment spending has indeed departed from its traditional determinants, this article compares capital spending during the 1980s and early 1990s with projections of spending derived from historical relationships between investment and various measures of economic activity. ; The results show that capital investment has not been low for any surprising reasons; in general, business investment has adhered fairly well to its historical correspondence with output, profits, and the cost of capital. Investment in equipment behaved as the models predicted, while investment in nonresidential structures exceeded the models’ forecasts in the early eighties, in large part as a result of the construction of oil rigs and a commercial real estate boom. The author concludes that the disappointing volume of capital investment by businesses of late is a symptom of slow economic growth, not exceptional impediments.

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    File URL: http://www.bostonfed.org/economic/neer/neer1993/neer193a.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its journal New England Economic Review.

    Volume (Year): (1993)
    Issue (Month): Jan ()
    Pages: 3-31

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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbne:y:1993:i:jan:p:3-31

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    Keywords: Capital investments;

    References

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    1. Blackorby, Charles & Schworm, William, 1988. "The Existence of Input and Output Aggregates in Aggregate Production Functions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(3), pages 613-43, May.
    2. Pindyck, Robert S, 1991. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Investment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(3), pages 1110-48, September.
    3. Christopher A. Sims, 1982. "Policy Analysis with Econometric Models," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 13(1), pages 107-164.
    4. Kiviet, Jan F & Kramer, Walter, 1992. "Bias of SDE 2 in the Linear Regression Model with Correlated Errors," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(2), pages 362-65, May.
    5. Tobin, James, 1969. "A General Equilibrium Approach to Monetary Theory," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 1(1), pages 15-29, February.
    6. Paul A. Samuelson, 1964. "Tax Deductibility of Economic Depreciation to Insure Invariant Valuations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 72, pages 604.
    7. Plosser, C.I., 1989. "Understanding Real Business Cycles," RCER Working Papers 198, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
    8. Gordon, Robert J, 1990. "What Is New-Keynesian Economics?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 28(3), pages 1115-71, September.
    9. Fumio Hayashi, 1981. "Tobin's Marginal q and Average a : A Neoclassical Interpretation," Discussion Papers 457, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    10. Barry P. Bosworth, 1985. "Taxes and the Investment Recovery," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 16(1), pages 1-45.
    11. Balasko, Yves, 1984. "The Size of Dynamic Econometric Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 123-41, January.
    12. William D. Nordhaus & James Tobin, 1972. "Is Growth Obsolete?," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Research: Retrospect and Prospect Vol 5: Economic Growth, pages 1-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
      • William D. Nordhaus & James Tobin, 1973. "Is Growth Obsolete?," NBER Chapters, in: The Measurement of Economic and Social Performance, pages 509-564 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Morrison, Catherine J, 1992. "Unraveling the Productivity Growth Slowdown in the United States, Canada and Japan: The Effects of Subequilibrium, Scale Economies and Markups," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(3), pages 381-93, August.
    14. Fisher, Franklin M, 1969. "The Existence of Aggregate Production Functions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 37(4), pages 553-77, October.
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    Cited by:
    1. John Bailey Jones, 1999. "Has Fiscal Policy Helped Stabilize the Postwar U.S. Economy?," Discussion Papers 99-03, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
    2. Robert E. Carpenter & Steven M. Fazzari & Bruce C. Petersen, 1994. "Inventory (Dis)Investment, Internal Finance Fluctuations, and the Business Cycle," Macroeconomics 9401001, EconWPA.
    3. Sylvain Martel, 2005. "Y a-t-il eu surinvestissement au Canada durant la seconde moitié des années 1990?," Working Papers 05-5, Bank of Canada.
    4. Lynn Elaine Browne & Rebecca Hellerstein, 1997. "Are we investing too little?," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Nov, pages 29-50.
    5. Alejandro Diaz-Bautista & Julio R. Escandon, 2003. "A Simple Dynamic Model of Credit and Aggregate Demand," Macroeconomics 0308001, EconWPA.
    6. Robert E. Carpenter & Steven M. Fazzari & Bruce C. Petersen, 1995. "Three Financing Constraint Hypotheses and Inventory Investment: New Tests With Time and Sectoral Heterogeneity," Macroeconomics 9510001, EconWPA, revised 09 Oct 1995.
    7. Lindstrom, Tomas, 1998. "A fuzzy design of the willingness to invest in Sweden," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 1-17, July.
    8. Stevans, Lonnie K., 2012. "Income inequality and economic incentives: Is there an equity–efficiency tradeoff?," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 149-160.

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