Is There a U.S. High Cash Holdings Puzzle after the Financial Crisis?
Defining normal cash holdings as the holdings a firm with the same characteristics would have had in the late 1990s, we find that the average abnormal cash holdings of U.S. firms after the financial crisis amount to 10% of cash holdings, which represents an 87% increase in abnormal cash holdings from before the crisis. The increase in abnormal cash holdings of U.S. firms is concentrated among highly profitable firms. Strikingly, abnormal cash holdings do not increase more for U.S. firms than for firms in advanced countries from before the crisis to after the crisis. Though abnormal cash holdings of U.S. multinational firms increase sharply in the early 2000s while cash holdings of purely domestic firms do not, there is no increase in abnormal cash holdings by U.S. multinational firms from before the crisis to after. Further evidence shows that the tax explanation for the cash holdings of U.S. multinational firms cannot explain the large abnormal holdings of these firms. In sum, while the high cash holdings of U.S. firms before the crisis are a U.S.-specific puzzle, the increase in cash holdings of U.S. firms from before the crisis to after is not.
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