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Optimal leverage, its benefits, and the business cycle

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  • Hess, Dieter
  • Immenkötter, Philipp

Abstract

We study the effect of the business cycle on optimal capital structure choice and the benefit to leverage. We propose a regime switching model with a state-dependent cash flow process to capture macroeconomic risk in a firm's cash flow. Our model is parsimonious but still realistic and allows for a wide range of analysis. We find pro-cyclical optimal leverage ratios, benefits to leverage, and costs of operating at a non-optimal leverage. If macroeconomic risk decreases, i.e. earnings become more stable and growth rates less volatile, optimal leverage and its benefits increase due to lower default risk. The regime switching property of EBIT traces observed EBIT paths closely and is applicable to a wide range of corporate valuation models. Our model offers novel empirically testable implications, such as higher tax benefits after the change in macroeconomic risk since the late 1980s and common capital structure adjustments in recessions and around turning points.

Suggested Citation

  • Hess, Dieter & Immenkötter, Philipp, 2011. "Optimal leverage, its benefits, and the business cycle," CFR Working Papers 11-12, University of Cologne, Centre for Financial Research (CFR).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:cfrwps:1112
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hackbarth, Dirk & Miao, Jianjun & Morellec, Erwan, 2006. "Capital structure, credit risk, and macroeconomic conditions," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 519-550, December.
    2. Hui Chen, 2010. "Macroeconomic Conditions and the Puzzles of Credit Spreads and Capital Structure," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 65(6), pages 2171-2212, December.
    3. K.J. Martijn Cremers & Joost Driessen & Pascal Maenhout, 2008. "Explaining the Level of Credit Spreads: Option-Implied Jump Risk Premia in a Firm Value Model," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 21(5), pages 2209-2242, September.
    4. Harjoat S. Bhamra & Lars-Alexander Kuehn & Ilya A. Strebulaev, 2010. "The Aggregate Dynamics of Capital Structure and Macroeconomic Risk," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(12), pages 4187-4241, December.
    5. Van Nieuwerburgh, Stijn & Veldkamp, Laura, 2006. "Learning asymmetries in real business cycles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(4), pages 753-772, May.
    6. Mark T. Leary & Michael R. Roberts, 2005. "Do Firms Rebalance Their Capital Structures?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(6), pages 2575-2619, December.
    7. Joost Driessen, 2005. "Is Default Event Risk Priced in Corporate Bonds?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 18(1), pages 165-195.
    8. Francisco Covas & Wouter J. Den Haan, 2011. "The Cyclical Behavior of Debt and Equity Finance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 877-899, April.
    9. Korajczyk, Robert A. & Levy, Amnon, 2003. "Capital structure choice: macroeconomic conditions and financial constraints," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 75-109, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Correia, Ricardo & Población, Javier, 2015. "A structural model with Explicit Distress," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 112-130.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    capital structure; macroeconomic risk; regime switching; benefit to leverage;

    JEL classification:

    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill

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