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Measuring the Financial Soundness of U.S. Firms, 1926-2012

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  • Andrew G. Atkeson
  • Andrea L. Eisfeldt
  • Pierre-Olivier Weill

Abstract

Building on the Merton (1974) and Leland (1994) structural models of credit risk, we develop a simple, transparent, and robust method for measuring the financial soundness of individual firms using data on their equity volatility. We use this method to retrace quantitatively the history of firms' financial soundness during U.S. business cycles over most of the last century. We highlight three main findings. First, the three worst recessions between 1926 and 2012 coincided with insolvency crises, but other recessions did not. Second, fluctuations in asset volatility appear to drive variation in firms' financial soundness. Finally, the financial soundness of financial firms largely resembles that of nonfinancial firms.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew G. Atkeson & Andrea L. Eisfeldt & Pierre-Olivier Weill, 2013. "Measuring the Financial Soundness of U.S. Firms, 1926-2012," NBER Working Papers 19204, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19204 Note: AP CF EFG ME
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    Cited by:

    1. Colin Ellis, 2014. "Break-even maturity as a guide to financial distress," Contemporary Economics, University of Finance and Management in Warsaw, vol. 8(4), December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance

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