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Evidence on the role of cash flow for investment

  • Simon Gilchrist
  • Charles P. Himmelberg

Recent work in macroeconomics argues that imperfection in captial markets may lead to business cycle fluctuations by propogating relatively modest shoks. Evidence for such a mechanism (also known as the "financial accelerator") consists largely of firm-level studies showing that cash flow is an important predictor of investment. But this evidence is often viewed with skepticism because cash flow is also a good indicator of investment opportunities. In this paper, we develop a framework for estimating the extent to which the predictive power of cash flow can be attributed to its role as a "fundamental" versus its role in alleviating credit frictions. For firms with access to commercial paper and bond markets, we find that the perfect capital markets model of investment can fully account for the role of cash flow. For firms with only limited access to capital markets (as indicated by lack of participation in public debt markets) however, investment appears to be ! "excessively" sensitive to fluctuations in cash flow. These results thus clarify the role of cash flow in investment equations and provide support for the existence of a financial accelerator.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 93-7.

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Date of creation: 1993
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Monetary Economics, December 1995, v. 36, iss. 3, pp. 541-72
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:93-7
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  1. Mark Gertler & R. Glenn Hubbard & Anil Kashyap, 1990. "Interest Rate Spreads, Credit Constraints, and Investment Fluctuations: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 3495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Zeldes, Stephen P, 1989. "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 305-46, April.
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  11. R. Glenn Hubbard & Anil Kashyap, 1990. "Internal Net Worth and the Investment Process: An Application to U.S. Agriculture," NBER Working Papers 3339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Ben Bernanke & Mark Gertler & Simon Gilchrist, 1994. "The Financial Accelerator and the Flight to Quality," NBER Working Papers 4789, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Blundell, Richard & Bond, Stephen & Devereux, Michael & Schiantarelli, Fabio, 1992. "Investment and Tobin's Q: Evidence from company panel data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1-2), pages 233-257.
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  22. Steven M. Fazzari & R. Glenn Hubbard & BRUCE C. PETERSEN, 1988. "Financing Constraints and Corporate Investment," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(1), pages 141-206.
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  24. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Selection and the Evolution of Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 649-70, May.
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