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Why Do U.S. Firms Hold So Much More Cash than They Used To?

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  • THOMAS W. BATES
  • KATHLEEN M. KAHLE
  • RENÉ M. STULZ

Abstract

The average cash‐to‐assets ratio for U.S. industrial firms more than doubles from 1980 to 2006. A measure of the economic importance of this increase is that at the end of the sample period, the average firm can retire all debt obligations with its cash holdings. Cash ratios increase because firms' cash flows become riskier. In addition, firms change: They hold fewer inventories and receivables and are increasingly R&D intensive. While the precautionary motive for cash holdings plays an important role in explaining the increase in cash ratios, we find no consistent evidence that agency conflicts contribute to the increase.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas W. Bates & Kathleen M. Kahle & René M. Stulz, 2009. "Why Do U.S. Firms Hold So Much More Cash than They Used To?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(5), pages 1985-2021, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jfinan:v:64:y:2009:i:5:p:1985-2021
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01492.x
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G30 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - General
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G35 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Payout Policy

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