Uncertainty of Uncertainty and Firm Cash Holdings
35 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2021
Date Written: December 11, 2020
We examine the impact on firm cash holdings of uncertainty of uncertainty, measured as the ex post volatility of economic policy uncertainty. Using the news-based index developed by Baker, Bloom, and Davis (2016) for twenty-two countries, we find that, when there is greater volatility of economic uncertainty, firms hold more cash. Our results are robust to controlling for a host of firm-level and country-level factors. Consistent with Baker, Bloom, and Davis (2016), we consider that less economic policy uncertainty is associated with more investment; and so the real-option value of cash is sensitive to the possibility of a future desirability of investment. Therefore, when there is greater expected volatility of uncertainty, measured under rational expectations as the recent ex post volatility of uncertainty, firms will hold more cash. We also find that the volatility of economic policy uncertainty is much more economically significant in determining firm cash holdings than economic policy uncertainty itself. Therefore, our paper not only adds to the literature on uncertainty and cash holdings, but also, importantly, to the limited literature in finance on the impact of uncertainty of uncertainty.
Keywords: Economic policy uncertainty, Uncertainty of uncertainty, Cash holdings, Real options, Transaction costs
JEL Classification: G32, D8
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation