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International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

During the second half of the 1990s, soaring stock markets seemed to many to signal an era of unprecedented growth and profit opportunities and contributed to investment booms in many countries. Corporations in the euro area embarked on such an investment binge and relied increasingly on borrowing as their financing needs quickly outpaced the availability of internal funds and net equity issues. When stock market valuations crashed in 2001 and 2002, corporations were left with high levels of debt. In a recent IMF Working Paper, Albert Jaeger (Deputy Division Chief, European I Department) takes a look at what this legacy of high corporate debt and leverage might mean for future investment spending. He spoke with the IMF Survey about his study.

Mr. Dmitry Gershenson, Mr. Albert Jaeger, and Mr. Subir Lall

In the years preceding the economic crisis, the corporate sector experienced rapid debt accumulation. The stock of nonfinancial corporation (NFC) debt stands at 112.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on a consolidated basis as of 2015:Q2, one of the largest in the EU. Excessive corporate leverage constrains profitability, resulting in higher nonperforming loans (NPLs) and lower business investment. Yet both banks and NFCs face disincentives to speed up the deleveraging process. The authorities have taken some important steps to facilitate corporate debt restructuring, including enhancing the legal and institutional framework. The current economic and financial environment affords an opportunity to tackle the corporate debt overhang more ambitiously with a standardized bank-led, time-bound framework.

International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
This Technical Note discusses the findings and recommendations made in the Financial Sector Assessment Program for Ireland in the areas of nonbank sector stability. Both nonparametric and parametric methods suggest that the residential real estate market in Ireland is close to or moderately below its equilibrium level. Two standard metrics of price-to-income and price-to-rent ratios show that following a protracted period of overvaluation prior to the crisis and a correction afterward, the market has been close to its equilibrium level in recent quarters. Households have deleveraged, but are still highly indebted. The stability analysis results also suggest that vulnerabilities among nonfinancial firms have moderated in recent years.
Mr. Sergi Lanau
This paper examines the effects of improvements in infrastrucutre on sectoral growth and firm-level investment, focusing on six Latin American countries. Exploiting the heterogeneity in the quality of infrastructure across countries and the intrinsic variation in the dependence of sectors on infrastructure, I find that better infrastructure raises growth and investment. Improved infrastructure could yield large economic benefits. For example, if the quality of infrastructure in Colombia increased to the sample median (Czech Republic), GDP growth would increase by about 0.1 percentage points.
Mr. Jorge A Chan-Lau
This paper finds that systematic default risk, or the event of widespread defaults in the corporate sector, is an important determinant of equity returns. Moreover, the market price of systematic default risk is one order of magnitude higher than the market price of other risk factors. In contrast to studies by Fama and French (1993, 1996 ) and Vassalou and Xing (2004), this paper uses a market-based measure of systematic default risk. The measure is constructed using price information from credit derivatives prices, namely the spreads of standardized single-tranche collateralized debt obligations on credit derivatives indices.
Mr. Se-Jik Kim and Mr. Mark R. Stone
Different levels of corporate leverage are used in this paper to help explain the wide range of post-crisis output adjustment across East Asia. In the model developed here, highly leveraged firms facing a cutoff of capital inflows are threatened by bankruptcy. These firms respond by eliminating investment and selling their capital goods-at a discount-to try to stay afloat. Lower investment and wasteful capital sales shrink the aggregate capital stock, trigger deflationary pressures, and contract overall output. The available data are broadly consistent with the assumptions and predictions of the model.
Ms. Chie Aoyagi and Mr. Giovanni Ganelli
Japan’s high corporate savings might be holding back growth. We focus on the causes and consequences of the current corporate behavior and suggest options for reform. In particular, Japan’s weak corporate governance—as measured by available indexes—might be contributing to high cash holdings. Our empirical analysis on a panel of Japanese firms confirms that improving corporate governance would help unlock corporate savings. The main policy implication of our analysis is that comprehensive corporate governance reform should be a key component of Japan’s growth strategy.
Mr. David T. Coe and Mr. Reza Moghadam
An aggregate production function is estimated with recent cointegrating techniques that are particularly appropriate for estimating long-run relationships. The empirical results suggest that the growth of output in France has been spurred by increased trade integration within the European Community and by the accumulation not only of business sector capital—the only measure of capital included in most empirical studies—but also by the accumulation of government infrastructure capital, residential capital, and R&D capital. Calculations of potential output indicate that trade and capital—broadly defined—account for all of the growth in the French economy during the last two decades.
Germán Gutiérrez, Callum Jones, and Mr. Thomas Philippon
We combine a structural model with cross-sectional micro data to identify the causes and consequences of rising concentration in the US economy. Using asset prices and industry data, we estimate realized and anticipated shocks that drive entry and concentration. We validate our approach by showing that the model-implied entry shocks correlate with independently constructed measures of entry regulations and M&As. We conclude that entry costs have risen in the U.S. over the past 20 years and have depressed capital and consumption by about seven percent.