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Cash Holdings and Credit Risk

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  • Viral V. Acharya
  • Sergei A. Davydenko
  • Ilya A. Strebulaev

Abstract

Intuition suggests that firms with higher cash holdings are safer and should have lower credit spreads. Yet empirically, the correlation between cash and spreads is robustly positive and higher for lower credit ratings. This puzzling finding can be explained by the precautionary motive for saving cash. In our model endogenously determined optimal cash reserves are positively related to credit risk, resulting in a positive correlation between cash and spreads. In contrast, spreads are negatively related to the "exogenous'' component of cash holdings that is independent of credit risk factors. Similarly, although firms with higher cash reserves are less likely to default over short horizons, endogenously determined liquidity may be related positively to the longer-term probability of default. Our empirical analysis confirms these predictions, suggesting that precautionary savings are central to understanding the effects of cash on credit risk.

Suggested Citation

  • Viral V. Acharya & Sergei A. Davydenko & Ilya A. Strebulaev, 2011. "Cash Holdings and Credit Risk," NBER Working Papers 16995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16995
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    JEL classification:

    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G33 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Bankruptcy; Liquidation

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