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Uncertainty and Investment Dynamics

  • Nick Bloom
  • John Van Reenen
  • Stephen Bond

This paper shows that, with (partial) irreversibility, higher uncertainty reduces the impact effect of demand shocks on investment. Uncertainty increases real option values making firms more cautious when investing or disinvesting. This is confirmed both numerically for a model with a rich mix of adjustment costs, time-varying uncertainty, and aggregation over investment decisions and time, and also empirically for a panel of manufacturing firms. These cautionary effects of uncertainty are large %u2013 going from the lower quartile to the upper quartile of the uncertainty distribution typically halves the first year investment response to demand shocks. This implies the responsiveness of firms to any given policy stimulus may be much lower in periods of high uncertainty, such as after major shocks like OPEC I and 9/11.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12383.

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Date of creation: Jul 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Nick Bloom & Stephen Bond & John Van Reenen, 2007. "Uncertainty and Investment Dynamics," Review of Economic Studies, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 74(2), pages 391-415, 04.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12383
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  1. Bronwyn H. Hall & Jacques Mairesse & Benoit Mulkay, 1998. "Firm-level investment in France an the United States: an exploration of what we have learned in twenty years," IFS Working Papers W98/10, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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  3. John V. Leahy & Toni M. Whited, 1995. "The Effect of Uncertainty on Investment: Some Stylized Facts," NBER Working Papers 4986, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Diego A. Comin & Thomas Philippon, 2006. "The Rise in Firm-Level Volatility: Causes and Consequences," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2005, Volume 20, pages 167-228 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M.R.A. Engel, 1994. "Explaining Investment Dynamics in U.S. Manufacturing: A Generalized (S,s) Approach," NBER Working Papers 4887, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Caballero, R.J., 1996. "Fixed Costs: The Demise of Marginal q," Working papers 96-14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  14. Oivind Anti Nilsen & Fabio Schiantarelli, 1996. "Zeroes and Lumps in Investment: Empirical Evidence on Irreversibilities and Non-Convexities," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 337., Boston College Department of Economics, revised 01 Nov 2000.
  15. Marcelo L. Veracierto, 2002. "Plant-Level Irreversible Investment and Equilibrium Business Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 181-197, March.
  16. Luigi Guiso & Giuseppe Parigi, 1999. "Investment And Demand Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 185-227, February.
  17. Andrew B. Abel & Janice C. Eberly, . "A Unified Model of Investment Under Uncertainty," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 14-93, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  18. Andrew B. Abel & Janice C. Eberly, 1995. "The Effects of Irreversibility and Uncertainty on Capital Accumulation," NBER Working Papers 5363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Engle, Robert F & Granger, Clive W J, 1987. "Co-integration and Error Correction: Representation, Estimation, and Testing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 251-76, March.
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  21. Hartman, Richard, 1972. "The effects of price and cost uncertainty on investment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 258-266, October.
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  26. Nicholas Bloom, 2000. "The dynamic effects of real options and irreversibility on investment and labour demand," IFS Working Papers W00/15, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  27. Timothy Erickson & Toni M. Whited, 2000. "Measurement Error and the Relationship between Investment and q," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 1027-1057, October.
  28. Russell W. Cooper & John C. Haltiwanger, 2000. "On the Nature of Capital Adjustment Costs," NBER Working Papers 7925, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Bloom, Nicholas & Bond, Stephen Roy & Van Reenen, John, 2003. "Uncertainty and Company Investment Dynamics: Empirical Evidence for UK Firms," CEPR Discussion Papers 4025, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  30. Russell Cooper & Joao Ejarque, 2003. "Financial Frictions and Investment: Requiem in Q," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 6(4), pages 710-728, October.
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