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The U-Shaped Investment Curve: Theory and Evidence

  • Cleary, Sean
  • Povel, Paul E M
  • Raith, Michael

This Paper examines how the investment of financially constrained firms varies with their level of internal funds. We develop a theoretical model of optimal investment under financial constraints. Our model endogenizes the costs of external funds and allows for negative levels of internal funds. We show that the resulting relationship between internal funds and investment is U-shaped. In particular, when a firm’s internal funds are negative and sufficiently low, a further decrease leads to an increase in investment. This effect is driven by the investor’s participation constraint: when part of any loan must be used to close a financing gap, the investor will provide funds only if the firm invests at a scale large enough to generate the revenue that enables the firm to repay. We test our theory using a dataset with close to 100,000 firm-year observations. The data strongly support our predictions. Among other results, we find a negative relationship between measures of internal funds and investment for a substantial share of financially constrained firms. Our results also help to explain some contrasting findings in the empirical investment literature.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4206.

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Date of creation: Jan 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4206
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  1. Kaplan, Steven N & Zingales, Luigi, 1997. "Do Investment-Cash Flow Sensitivities Provide Useful Measures of Financing Constraints," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 169-215, February.
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  9. Robert S. Chirinko & Huntley Schaller, 1993. "Why does liquidity matter in investment equations?," Research Working Paper 93-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
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  12. Timothy Erickson & Toni M. Whited, 2000. "Measurement Error and the Relationship between Investment and q," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 1027-1057, October.
  13. Aydogan Alti, 2003. "How Sensitive Is Investment to Cash Flow When Financing Is Frictionless?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(2), pages 707-722, 04.
  14. Ben Bernanke & Mark Gertler & Simon Gilchrist, 1998. "The Financial Accelerator in a Quantitative Business Cycle Framework," NBER Working Papers 6455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Bernanke, Ben & Gertler, Mark, 1989. "Agency Costs, Net Worth, and Business Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 14-31, March.
  16. Glenn W. Boyle & Graeme A. Guthrie, 2003. "Investment, Uncertainty, and Liquidity," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(5), pages 2143-2166, October.
  17. 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.
  18. Steven N. Kaplan & Luigi Zingales, 2000. "Investment-Cash Flow Sensitivities are not Valid Measures of Financing Constraints," NBER Working Papers 7659, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Peter M. DeMarzo & Michael J. Fishman, 2007. "Optimal Long-Term Financial Contracting," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 20(6), pages 2079-2128, November.
  20. Sean Cleary, 1999. "The Relationship between Firm Investment and Financial Status," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(2), pages 673-692, 04.
  21. Bernanke, Ben & Gertler, Mark, 1990. "Financial Fragility and Economic Performance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 87-114, February.
  22. Steven M. Fazzari & R. Glenn Hubbard & Bruce C. Petersen, 2000. "Investment-Cash Flow Sensitivities Are Useful: A Comment On Kaplan And Zingales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(2), pages 695-705, May.
  23. Huntley Schaller, 1993. "Asymmetric Information, Liquidity Constraints and Canadian Investment," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(3), pages 552-74, August.
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