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Agency Costs, Balance Sheets and the Business Cycle

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  • Philip Lowe

    (Reserve Bank of Australia)

  • Thomas Rohling

    (Reserve Bank of Australia)

Abstract

The 1980s witnessed large increases in corporate debt and sustained asset price inflation. More recently, asset prices, particularly commercial property prices, have fallen significantly. The effect of these changes on balance sheets, and their implications for the business cycle, have generated considerable interest among academics and policy makers. In this paper, we review recent theoretical models that link the evolution of the business cycle to changes in firm equity. This link arises out of the asymmetry of information between borrowers and lenders and between managers and owners. These asymmetries lead to distortions in decision making which affect both the supply of and demand for credit, and ultimately investment and output. Deteriorations in the net worth of corporations and financial institutions are likely to lead to a reduction in both credit demand and supply and to an amplification of the business cycle. We develop a simple model in which the information problems between risk-averse management and the firm’s owners lead to investment decisions that depend upon the financial condition of the firm. We also review the Australian evidence of the importance of balance sheet strength on the availability of finance. Empirical results suggest that asset price inflation or increases in corporate equity, even after controlling for general business conditions, lead to finance becoming easier to obtain. This suggests that a collapse of asset prices, or an aggregate demand shock that reduces firms’ equity, will result in decreased supply of external finance.

Suggested Citation

  • Philip Lowe & Thomas Rohling, 1993. "Agency Costs, Balance Sheets and the Business Cycle," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp9311, Reserve Bank of Australia.
  • Handle: RePEc:rba:rbardp:rdp9311
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Agustinus Prasetyantoko, 2006. "Debt Composition and Balance Sheet Effect of Currency Crisis in Indonesia," Post-Print halshs-00134223, HAL.
    4. Girardi, Alessandro & Ventura, Marco & Margani, Patrizia, 2018. "An Indicator of Credit Crunch using Italian Business Surveys," MPRA Paper 88839, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. J T Kneeshaw, 1995. "A survey of non-financial sector balance sheets in industialised countries: implications for the monetary policy transmission mechanism," BIS Working Papers 25, Bank for International Settlements.
    6. Fabio ALESSANDRINI, 2003. "Introducing Capital Structure in a Production Economy: Implications for Investment, Debt and Dividends," Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'économie 03.03, Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, Département d’économie.
    7. Karen Mills & Steven Morling & Warren Tease, 1995. "The Influence of Financial Factors on Corporate Investment," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 28(2), pages 50-64, April.
    8. Philip Lowe & Geoffrey Shuetrim, 1992. "The Evolution of Corporate Financial Structure: 1973–1990," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp9216, Reserve Bank of Australia.
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    11. Bacchetta, Philippe & Caminal, Ramon, 2000. "Do capital market imperfections exacerbate output fluctuations?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 449-468, March.

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