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

Author

Listed:
  • Bates, Thomas W.

    (U of Arizona)

  • Kahle, Kathleen M.
  • Stulz, Rene M.

    (Ohio State U)

Abstract

The average cash to assets ratio for U.S. industrial firms increases by 129% from 1980 to 2004. Because of this increase in the average cash ratio, firms at the end of the sample period can pay back all of their debt obligations with their cash holdings, so that the average firm has no leverage when leverage is measured by net debt. This change in cash ratios and net debt is the result of a secular trend rather than the outcome of the recent buildup in cash holdings of some large firms, but is more pronounced for firms that do not pay dividends. The average cash ratio increases over the sample period because firms change: their cash flow becomes riskier, they hold fewer inventories and accounts receivable, and are increasingly R&D intensive. The precautionary motive for cash holdings appears to explain the increase in the average cash ratio.

Suggested Citation

  • Bates, Thomas W. & Kahle, Kathleen M. & Stulz, Rene M., 2007. "Why Do U.S. Firms Hold So Much More Cash Than They Used To?," Working Paper Series 2006-17, Ohio State University, Charles A. Dice Center for Research in Financial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:ohidic:2006-17
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    File URL: http://www.cob.ohio-state.edu/fin/dice/papers/2006/2006-17.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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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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