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Agency Costs, Collateral, and Business Fluctuations

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  • Ben S. Bernanke
  • Mark Gertler

Abstract

Bad economic times are typically associated with a high incidence of financial distress, e.g., insolvency and bankruptcy. This paper studies the role of changes in borrower solvency in the initiation and propagation of the business cycle. We first develop a model of the process of financing real investment projects under asymmetric information, extending work by Robert Townsend. A major conclusion here is that when the entrepreneurs who borrow to finance projects are more solvent (have more "collateral"), the deadweight agency costs of investment finance are lower. This model of investment finance is then embedded in a dynamic macroeconomic setting. We show that, first, since reductions in collateral in bad times increase the agency costs of borrowing, which in turn depress the demand for investment, the presence of these financial factors will tend to amplify swings in real output. Second, we find that autonomous factors which affect the collateral of borrowers (as in a "debt-deflation") can actually initiate cycles in output.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2015.

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Date of creation: Aug 1986
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Publication status: published as Bernanke, Ben and Mark Gertler, "Agency Costs, Net Worth, and Business Fluctuations," American Economic Review, vol. 79, no. 1, pp. 14-31, March 1989
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2015

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  1. Gale, Douglas & Hellwig, Martin, 1985. "Incentive-Compatible Debt Contracts: The One-Period Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 647-63, October.
  2. Diamond, Douglas W, 1984. "Financial Intermediation and Delegated Monitoring," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 393-414, July.
  3. Hamilton, James D., 1987. "Monetary factors in the great depression," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 145-169, March.
  4. Townsend, Robert M., 1979. "Optimal contracts and competitive markets with costly state verification," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 265-293, October.
  5. Bruce C. Greenwald & Joseph E. Stiglitz & Andrew Weiss, 1984. "Informational Imperfections in the Capital Market and Macro-Economic Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 1335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Long, John B, Jr & Plosser, Charles I, 1983. "Real Business Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(1), pages 39-69, February.
  7. HOLMSTROM, Bengt, . "Moral hazard and observability," CORE Discussion Papers RP -379, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  8. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  9. King, Robert G & Plosser, Charles I, 1984. "Money, Credit, and Prices in a Real Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 363-80, June.
  10. Williamson, Stephen D, 1987. "Financial Intermediation, Business Failures, and Real Business Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(6), pages 1196-1216, December.
  11. Sappington, David, 1983. "Limited liability contracts between principal and agent," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-21, February.
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Cited by:
  1. Eickmeier, Sandra & Hofmann, Boris & Worms, Andreas, 2006. "Macroeconomic fluctuations and bank lending: evidence for Germany and the euro area," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2006,34, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
  2. Gertler, Mark, 1988. "Financial Structure and Aggregate Economic Activity: An Overview," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 20(3), pages 559-88, August.
  3. Michael Mussa & Robert P. Flood, 1994. "Issues Concerning Nominal Anchors for Monetary Policy," IMF Working Papers 94/61, International Monetary Fund.
  4. Karen Mills & Steve Morling & Warren Tease, 1993. "Balance Sheet Restructuring and Investment," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp9308, Reserve Bank of Australia.
  5. Benjamin M. Friedman, 1988. "Targets and Instruments of Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 2668, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Tuomas Peltonen & Ricardo Sousa & Isabel Vansteenkiste, 2012. "Investment in emerging market economies," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 97-119, August.
  7. Martin C. Schmalz & David A. Sraer & David Thesmar, 2013. "Housing Collateral and Entrepreneurship," NBER Working Papers 19680, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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