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A Simple Approach for Deciding When to Invest

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  • Jonathan B. Berk

Abstract

A straightforward generalization of the simple net present value rule that correctly predicts when to invest in two classes of projects that can be delayed is derived. The first class consists of projects for which the option to delay derives its value exclusively from uncertainty about interest rates. It is shown that the optimal rule for investing in such projects is to simply multiply the discount rate of the project by the ratio of the mortgage rate to the riskless rate and then use this new rate as the discount rate in a standard net present value analysis. The other class of investment opportunities that is considered is the firm's option to expand. It is shown that it is only optimal for the firm to expand when a particular call option on the firm's stock has no time value. The fact that mortgage bonds (in the form of GNMAs) and stock options are actively traded implies that these rules have potentially important practical and empirical value. Besides their simplicity, the rules have the added advantage that they do not depend on a maintained assumption on the dynamics of interest rates in the economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan B. Berk, 1998. "A Simple Approach for Deciding When to Invest," NBER Working Papers 6678, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6678
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    1. Andrew B. Abel & Avinash K. Dixit & Janice B. Eberly & Robert S. Pindyck, "undated". "Options, the Value of Capital, and Investment," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 15-95, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
    2. Ingersoll, Jonathan E, Jr & Ross, Stephen A, 1992. "Waiting to Invest: Investment and Uncertainty," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65(1), pages 1-29, January.
    3. Pindyck, Robert S, 1991. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Investment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(3), pages 1110-1148, September.
    4. Ben S. Bernanke, 1983. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Cyclical Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(1), pages 85-106.
    5. Cukierman, Alex, 1980. "The Effects of Uncertainty on Investment under Risk Neutrality with Endogenous Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(3), pages 462-475, June.
    6. Pindyck, Robert S, 1988. "Irreversible Investment, Capacity Choice, and the Value of the Firm," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 969-985, December.
    7. LeRoy, Stephen F, 1996. "Mortgage Valuation under Optimal Prepayment," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 9(3), pages 817-844.
    8. Avinash K. Dixit & Robert S. Pindyck, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 5474.
    9. Brennan, Michael J & Schwartz, Eduardo S, 1985. "Evaluating Natural Resource Investments," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(2), pages 135-157, April.
    10. Robert McDonald & Daniel Siegel, 1986. "The Value of Waiting to Invest," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(4), pages 707-727.
    11. Andrew B. Abel & Avinash K. Dixit & Janice C. Eberly & Robert S. Pindyck, 1996. "Options, the Value of Capital, and Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(3), pages 753-777.
    12. Stanton, Richard, 1995. "Rational Prepayment and the Valuation Mortgage-Backed Securities," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 8(3), pages 677-708.
    13. Titman, Sheridan, 1985. "Urban Land Prices under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 505-514, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies
    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing

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