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Agency Costs, Balance Sheets and the Business Cycle

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  • Philip Lowe

    (Reserve Bank of Australia)

  • Thomas Rohling

    (Reserve Bank of Australia)

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    Abstract

    The 1980s witnessed large increases in corporate debt and sustained asset price inflation. More recently, asset prices, particularly commercial property prices, have fallen significantly. The effect of these changes on balance sheets, and their implications for the business cycle, have generated considerable interest among academics and policy makers. In this paper, we review recent theoretical models that link the evolution of the business cycle to changes in firm equity. This link arises out of the asymmetry of information between borrowers and lenders and between managers and owners. These asymmetries lead to distortions in decision making which affect both the supply of and demand for credit, and ultimately investment and output. Deteriorations in the net worth of corporations and financial institutions are likely to lead to a reduction in both credit demand and supply and to an amplification of the business cycle. We develop a simple model in which the information problems between risk-averse management and the firm’s owners lead to investment decisions that depend upon the financial condition of the firm. We also review the Australian evidence of the importance of balance sheet strength on the availability of finance. Empirical results suggest that asset price inflation or increases in corporate equity, even after controlling for general business conditions, lead to finance becoming easier to obtain. This suggests that a collapse of asset prices, or an aggregate demand shock that reduces firms’ equity, will result in decreased supply of external finance.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Reserve Bank of Australia in its series RBA Research Discussion Papers with number rdp9311.

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    Date of creation: Nov 1993
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    Handle: RePEc:rba:rbardp:rdp9311

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    References

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    1. Steven Fazzari & R. Glenn Hubbard & Bruce C. Petersen, 1987. "Financing Constraints and Corporate Investment," NBER Working Papers 2387, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Karen Mills & Steve Morling & Warren Tease, 1993. "Balance Sheet Restructuring and Investment," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp9308, Reserve Bank of Australia.
    3. Charles W. Calomiris & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1988. "Firm Heterogeneity, Internal Finance, and `Credit Rationing'," NBER Working Papers 2497, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Diamond, Douglas W, 1984. "Financial Intermediation and Delegated Monitoring," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 393-414, July.
    5. Bruce C. Greenwald & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1988. "Financial Market Imperfections and Business Cycles," NBER Working Papers 2494, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Whited, Toni M., 1991. "Investment and financial asset accumulation," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 1(4), pages 307-334, December.
    7. Toni M. Whited, 1990. "Debt, liquidity constraints, and corporate investment: evidence from panel data," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 114, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    8. Mark Gertler & Simon Gilchrist, 1991. "Monetary Policy, Business Cycles and the Behavior of Small Manufacturing Firms," NBER Working Papers 3892, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Stephen Grenville, 1990. "The Operation of Monetary Policy," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 23(2), pages 6-16.
    10. Greenwald, Bruce & Stiglitz, Joseph E & Weiss, Andrew, 1984. "Informational Imperfections in the Capital Market and Macroeconomic Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 194-99, May.
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    12. Gertler, Mark, 1992. "Financial Capacity and Output Fluctuations in an Economy with Multi-period Financial Relationships," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(3), pages 455-72, July.
    13. Mark Gertler & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1988. "Financial factors in business fluctuations," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 33-78.
    14. Mark Gertler, 1988. "Financial structure and aggregate economic activity: an overview," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 559-596.
    15. Jensen, M.C. & Murphy, K.J., 1988. "Performance Pay And Top Management Incentives," Papers 88-04, Rochester, Business - Managerial Economics Research Center.
    16. Philip Lowe & Geoffrey Shuetrim, 1992. "The Evolution of Corporate Financial Structure: 1973–1990," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp9216, Reserve Bank of Australia.
    17. Ben S. Bernanke & Cara S. Lown, 1991. "The Credit Crunch," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(2), pages 205-248.
    18. Williamson, Stephen D, 1987. "Costly Monitoring, Loan Contracts, and Equilibrium Credit Rationing," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(1), pages 135-45, February.
    19. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1992. "Capital markets and economic fluctuations in capitalist economies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(2-3), pages 269-306, April.
    20. 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.
    21. Agrawal, Anup & Mandelker, Gershon N, 1987. " Managerial Incentives and Corporate Investment and Financing Decision s," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 42(4), pages 823-37, September.
    22. Stiglitz, Joseph E & Weiss, Andrew, 1981. "Credit Rationing in Markets with Imperfect Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 393-410, June.
    23. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
    24. Gilson, Stuart C., 1990. "Bankruptcy, boards, banks, and blockholders : Evidence on changes in corporate ownership and control when firms default," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 355-387, October.
    25. Jensen, Michael C, 1988. "Takeovers: Their Causes and Consequences," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 21-48, Winter.
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    Cited by:
    1. Fabio ALESSANDRINI, 2003. "Introducing Capital Structure in a Production Economy: Implications for Investment, Debt and Dividends," Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'Econométrie et d'Economie politique (DEEP) 03.03, Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, DEEP.
    2. Agustinus Prasetyantoko, 2006. "Debt Composition and Balance Sheet Effect of Currency Crisis in Indonesia," Post-Print halshs-00134223, HAL.
    3. J T Kneeshaw, 1995. "A survey of non-financial sector balance sheets in industialised countries: implications for the monetary policy transmission mechanism," BIS Working Papers 25, Bank for International Settlements.
    4. Philip Lowe & Geoffrey Shuetrim, 1992. "The Evolution of Corporate Financial Structure: 1973–1990," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp9216, Reserve Bank of Australia.

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