Cash Holdings and Credit Risk

Cash Holdings and Credit Risk

By
Viral Acharya, Sergei Davydenko, Ilya A. Strebulaev
Review of Financial Studies. October
2012, Vol. 25, Issue 12, Pages 3572-3609

Intuition suggests that firms with higher cash holdings should be “safer” and have lower credit spreads. Yet empirically, the correlation between cash and spreads is robustly positive. This puzzling finding can be explained by the precautionary motive for saving cash, which in our model causes riskier firms to accumulate higher cash reserves. In contrast, spreads are negatively related to the part of cash holdings that is not determined by credit risk factors. Similarly, although firms with higher cash reserves are less likely to default in the short term, endogenously determined liquidity may be related positively to the longer-term probability of default. Our empirical analysis confirms these predictions, suggesting that precautionary savings are central to understanding the effects of cash on credit risk.