Credit Supply and the Macroeconomy: An Empirical Analysis of Capital Regulation, Bank Lending, and Firm Behavior

The policy response to the recent financial crisis has broadly focused on two themes: 1) Increasing the banking sectors’ resilience to future financial shocks: 2) Improving credit availability to households and firms via lowering both short and long-term interest rates and thereby affecting short-term output and inflation. This dissertation studies how banks and firms have responded to these policy measures. The dissertation comprises of three chapters. The first two analyze the impact of capital regulation on bank lending for two different jurisdictions - United States and Switzerland. The third evaluates the response of U.S. non-financial firms to lower interest rates. The first chapter is joint work with Luisa Lambertini. We estimate the impact of bank capital regulation on lending spreads. We use U.S. firm-level data on syndicated loans matched with Bank Holding Company (BHC) data for the lending banks in our panel regressions. We find that higher bank capital leads to an increase in the loan pricing. Further, we investigate if stress test failure under the Supervisory Capital Assessment Program and Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review leads to higher loan spreads, since financial institutions that failed were required to raise capital in the short run. Using a difference-in-difference framework, we find: 1) BHCs that failed the stress tests increased their loan pricing; 2) Loan pricing is higher for all banks after the commencement of the stress tests. These findings suggest that greater regulatory oversight and higher capital requirements have made syndicated loans more costly for firms. The second chapter is joint work with Luisa Lambertini, Dan Wunderli and Robert Bichsel. We use confidential loan-by-loan data of Swiss banks to study the impact of higher capital requirements on lending. Our data allows us to trace the link between bank capital and new credit granted at the bank level. Additionally bank-specific variation of capital targets allows us to analyze how deviation from the regulatory capital target impacts loan pricing and volume. We find that tighter capital regulation has small but statistically significant short-term effects on loan pricing and growth. We do not find a permanent effect of higher capital ratios on loan growth. In the third chapter, I study the behavior of U.S. non-financial corporates after the recent financial crisis. I document an increase in the real debt holdings and correspondingly the book leverage for these firms. Controlling for firm and time fixed-effects, I find a higher long-term debt to asset ratio to be associated with lower capital expenditures and growth in fixed capital post-crisis. This is also true for financially unconstrained firms, as determined by the Whited-Wu index, vis-a-vis pre-crisis. Moreover, firms with a higher share of long-term debt after the crisis appear to have a greater likelihood of repurchasing shares and larger dollar payouts to equity holders. The evidence points to the fact that any increase in long-term debt has had an impact on firms' capital structure but no positive effect on real investment.

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