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Uncertainty and investment: an empirical investigation using data on analysts' profits forecasts

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  • Stephen R. Bond
  • Jason G. Cummins

Abstract

We investigate the empirical relationship between company investment and measures of uncertainty, controlling for the effect of expected future profitability on current investment decisions. We consider three measures of uncertainty derived from (1) the volatility in the firm's stock returns; (2) disagreement among securities analysts in their forecasts of the firm's future profits; and (3) the variance of forecast errors in analysts' forecasts of the firm's future profits. We consider two controls for expected profitability: (1) a standard measure of Brainard-Tobin's q constructed from the firm's stock market valuation; and (2) an alternative measure of the q ratio constructed from discounted forecasts of the firm's future profits. Our sample consists of publicly-traded U.S. companies that were tracked by two or more securities analysts for at least four consecutive years between 1982 and 1999. The results show that all three measures of uncertainty are positively correlated and appear to pick up underlying movements in uncertainty. When we consider these measures individually, we find a significantly negative long-run effect of higher uncertainty on capital accumulation, which is robust to the inclusion of either of our controls for expected profitability. When we consider our uncertainty measures jointly, we find that the level of disagreement among analysts provides the most informative indicator for identifying this long-run effect of uncertainty on capital accumulation. In addition, we find a significantly negative short-run interaction term between share price volatility and current sales growth, consistent with the idea that investment will respond less to a given demand shock at higher levels of uncertainty. These effects of uncertainty on investment are shown to be quantitatively as well as statistically significant.

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  • Stephen R. Bond & Jason G. Cummins, 2004. "Uncertainty and investment: an empirical investigation using data on analysts' profits forecasts," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2004-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2004-20
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Vlieghe, Gertjan & Stephen Bond & Alexander Klemm & Rain Newton-Smith & Murtaza Syed, 2003. "The roles of expected profitability, Tobin's Q and cash flow in econometric models of company investment," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2003 212, Royal Economic Society.
    2. Stephen Bond, 2000. "Noisy Share Prices and the Q Model of Investment," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1320, Econometric Society.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mehkari, M. Saif, 2016. "Uncertainty shocks in a model with mean-variance frontiers and endogenous technology choices," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 71-98.
    2. Christopher F. Baum & Mustafa Caglayan & Oleksandr Talavera, 2010. "On the sensitivity of firms' investment to cash flow and uncertainty," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(2), pages 286-306, April.
    3. Baker, Jessica & Carreras, Oriol & Kirby, Simon & Meaning, Jack & Piggott, Rebecca, 2016. "Modelling events: The short-term economic impact of leaving the EU," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 339-350.
    4. Baum, Christopher F. & Caglayan, Mustafa & Talavera, Oleksandr, 2008. "Uncertainty determinants of firm investment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 98(3), pages 282-287, March.
    5. Ekaterina E. Kuzmicheva, 2014. "The Influence Of Financial Constraints And Attitude Towards Risk In Corporate Investment Decisions," HSE Working papers WP BRP 36/FE/2014, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    6. Panousi, Vasia & Papanikolaou, Dimitris, 2009. "Investment, idiosyncratic risk, and ownership," MPRA Paper 24239, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Catherine Fuss & Philip Vermeulen, 2008. "Firms' investment decisions in response to demand and price uncertainty," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(18), pages 2337-2351.
    8. Arif, Salman & Marshall, Nathan & Yohn, Teri Lombardi, 2016. "Understanding the relation between accruals and volatility: A real options-based investment approach," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 65-86.
    9. Wang, Yizhong & Chen, Carl R. & Huang, Ying Sophie, 2014. "Economic policy uncertainty and corporate investment: Evidence from China," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 227-243.
    10. Alessandro Fiaschi, 2009. "Managerial discretion and optimal financing policies with cash flow uncertainty," Working Papers 3, Doctoral School of Economics, Sapienza University of Rome.
    11. Xie, Feixue, 2009. "Managerial flexibility, uncertainty, and corporate investment: The real options effect," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 643-655, October.
    12. Bachmann, Rüdiger & Bayer, Christian, 2013. "‘Wait-and-See’ business cycles?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(6), pages 704-719.
    13. Christopher F. Baum & Mustafa Caglayan & Oleksandr Talavera, 2006. "Firm Investment and Financial Frictions," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 634, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    14. Mustafa Caglayan & Bing Xu, 2013. "Allocation Effects of Uncertainty on Resources in Japan," CFI Discussion Papers 1306, Centre for Finance and Investment, Heriot Watt University.

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    Keywords

    Investments ; Risk ; Uncertainty;

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