Market Timing and Capital Structure for Baker and Wurgler

1526 WordsJul 11, 20137 Pages
Abstract It is well known that firms are more likely to issue equity when their market values are high, relative to book and past market values, and to repurchase equity when their market values are low. We document that the resulting effects on capital structure are very persistent. As a consequence, current capital structure is strongly related to historical market values. The results suggest the theory that capital structure is the cumulative outcome of past attempts to time the equity market. Introduction “Equity market timing” refers to the practice of issuing shares at high prices and repurchasing shares at low prices. Equity market timing appears to be an important aspect of real corporate financial policy. In…show more content…
The relevant historical variation in market valuations is measured by the “external finance weighted-average” market-to-book ratio. This variable takes high values for firms that raised external finance when the market-to-book ratio was high and vice-versa. The intuitive motivation for this weighting scheme is that external financing events represent practical opportunities to change leverage. It therefore gives more weight to valuations that prevailed when significant external financing decisions were being made, whether those decisions ultimately went toward debt or equity. This weighted average is better than a set of lagged market-to-book ratios because it picks out, for each firm, precisely which lags (intervals) are likely to be the most relevant. Intuitively the weights correspond to times when capital structure was most likely to be changed. When firms go public, their capital structure reflects a number of factors, including market-to-book, asset tangibility, size, and research and development intensity. As firms age, the cross-section of leverage is more and more explained by past financing opportunities, as determined by the market-to-book ratio, and past opportunities to accumulate retained earnings, as determined by profitability. Historical within-firm variation in market-to-book, not current cross-firm variation, is more
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