Inflation, Investment Composition and Total Factor Productivity
This paper employs a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model with a financial market friction to rationalize the empirically observed negative relationship between inflation and total factor productivity (TFP). Specifically, an empirical analysis of US macroeconomic time series establishes that there is a negative causal effect of inflation on aggregate productivity. Rather than taking the productivity process as exogenous, the model is therefore set up to feature an endogenous component of TFP. This is achieved by allowing physical investment to be channelled into two distinct technologies: a safe, but return-dominated technology and a superior technology which is subject to idiosyncratic liquidity risk. An agency problem prevents complete insurance against liquidity risk, and the scope for insurance is endogenously determined via the relevant liquidity premium. Since the liquidity premium is positively related to the rate of inflation, the model demonstrates how nominal fluctuations have an influence not only on the overall amount, but also on the qualitative composition of aggregate investment and hence on TFP. The quantitative relevance of the underlying transmission mechanism which links nominal fluctuations to TFP via corporate liquidity holdings and the composition of aggregate investment is corroborated by means of the quantitative analysis of the calibrated model economy as well as a detailed analysis of industry-level and firm-level panel data. Notably, the empirical findings are consistent with both the properties of the agency problem postulated in the theoretical model and its implications for corporate liquidity holdings and physical investment portfolios.
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