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Reconciling Estimates of the Speed of Adjustment of Leverage Ratios

Peter Iliev

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Finance

Ivo Welch

UCLA; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

October 20, 2010

A number of prominent papers in the literature have estimated the average speed of adjustment (SOA) of firms’ leverage ratios with estimators not designed for applications in which the dependent variable is a ratio. These statistics indicate mean reversion, which the papers mistakenly interpreted as deliberate readjustment. We propose a non-parametric way to model leverage ratios under the null hypothesis of random corporate behavior — a placebo process — and embed it with the common alternative of reverting to a target. We show that the empirical estimates previously documented were not only too low, but map into two estimates of the underlying parameter — one with a positive but very slow speed of readjustment, and one with a small negative speed of readjustment (as suggested in Baker and Wurgler (2002) and Dittmar and Thakor (2007)). The best inference to be drawn from the same estimators reported in the literature is the latter, i.e., the true SOA is mildly negative. The average manager does not seem to move back towards a target ratio.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 49

Keywords: Capital Structure, Leverage Ratios, Speed of Adjustment

JEL Classification: G32

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Date posted: January 26, 2010 ; Last revised: October 22, 2010

Suggested Citation

Iliev, Peter and Welch, Ivo, Reconciling Estimates of the Speed of Adjustment of Leverage Ratios (October 20, 2010). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1542691 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1542691

Contact Information

Peter Iliev
Pennsylvania State University - Department of Finance ( email )
University Park, PA 16802
United States
Ivo Welch (Contact Author)
UCLA ( email )
110 westwood plaza
Los Angeles, CA CA 90095-1481
United States
310-825-2508 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.ivo-welch.info
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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