Temporal Profiles of Cash Flows: Implications for Financial Leverage
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Finance
University of Florida - Warrington College of Business Administration
March 15, 2012
This paper investigates empirically the impact on leverage of the two temporal dimensions of cash flows: duration and persistence. We propose a novel estimation of these temporal characteristics, utilizing the return decomposition based on the vector autoregressive (VAR) method and the data on the market values of firms' assets. The key intuition for the estimation is that persistence is the sensitivity of market prices to cash flow shocks and duration is the sensitivity to discount rate shocks. Using these novel measures, we find evidence supporting recent developments in capital structure theory such as Gorbenko and Strebulaev (2010) and Hennessy (2004). First, firms with temporary shocks have low leverage, especially for small and financially constrained firms. Although less important unconditionally, permanent shocks' effect on leverage can be amplified, if they covary negatively with future discount rate shocks. Second, firms with long duration cash flow streams maintain low leverage and invest less in fixed assets, consistent with the notion that long asset life exacerbates debt overhang problems because default truncates future cash flows.
Date posted: March 19, 2012