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Why are U.S. firms holding so much cash? an exploration of cross-sectional variation


  • Juan M. Sanchez
  • Emircan Yurdagul


Currently U.S. firms hold record amounts of cash. The authors explore cross-sectional variation in cash holdings of U.S. publicly traded firms to shed light on the reasons for this recent trend. First, they identify factors that correlate with cash holdings and then examine the evolution of these factors over the past decade. Several factors, including research and development expenditures and idiosyncratic uncertainty, are important in accounting for cross-sectional differences in cash holdings. However, these factors do not increase over time as cash holdings do; thus, it seems unlikely that they underlie the increase in cash holdings. Aggregate uncertainty, however, has recently reached record levels. This uncertainty, combined with the fact that (idiosyncratic) uncertainty correlates well with cash holdings in the cross section of firms, suggests aggregate uncertainty may be an important factor accounting for the recent trend in increased cash holdings.

Suggested Citation

  • Juan M. Sanchez & Emircan Yurdagul, 2013. "Why are U.S. firms holding so much cash? an exploration of cross-sectional variation," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 95(July), pages 293-325.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlrv:y:2013:i:july:p:293-325:n:v.95no.4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lee Pinkowitz & René M. Stulz & Rohan Williamson, 2012. "Multinationals and the High Cash Holdings Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 18120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Carol Corrado & John Haltiwanger & Daniel Sichel, 2005. "Measuring Capital in the New Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number corr05-1, June.
    3. Diego Comin & Sunil Mulani, 2003. "Diverging Trends in Macro and Micro Volatility: Facts," Macroeconomics 0306008, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    Cited by:

    1. Guillaume Rocheteau & Randall Wright & Cathy Zhang, 2018. "Corporate Finance and Monetary Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(4-5), pages 1147-1186, April.
    2. Marwick, Alex & Hasan, Mostafa Monzur & Luo, Tianpei, 2020. "Organization capital and corporate cash holdings," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 68(C).
    3. Paul Jackson & Florian Madison, 2019. "Entrepreneurial finance, home equity, and monetary policy," ECON - Working Papers 322, Department of Economics - University of Zurich, revised Jun 2020.
    4. KHAN, Asad & BIBI, Memoona & TANVEER, Sarfaraz, 2016. "The Impact Of Corporate Governance On Cash Holdings: A Comparative Study Of The Manufacturing And Service Industry," Studii Financiare (Financial Studies), Centre of Financial and Monetary Research "Victor Slavescu", vol. 20(3), pages 40-79.
    5. Silva, Mario Rafael, 2019. "Corporate finance, monetary policy, and aggregate demand," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 1-28.
    6. Guillaume Rocheteau & Tsz-Nga Wong & Cathy Zhang, 2018. "Lending Relationships and Optimal Monetary Policy," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1306, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
    7. Chen, Jia & Gao, Ya-Chun & Li, Qiang & Zeng, Yong, 2020. "Cash holdings, M&A decision and risk premium," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 537(C).
    8. Atanasova, Christina & Li, Mingxin, 2019. "Do all diversified firms hold less cash? The role of product market competition," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 134-152.

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