Market Timing and Capital Structure for Baker and Wurgler
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.
“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 this paper, B&W ask how equity market timing effects capital structure and whether it has a short-run or long-run impact. The variation in market-to-book ratio is a proxy for manager’s perceptions of misevaluation. The main finding is that low leverage firms are those that raised funds when their market valuations were high (measured by the book-to-market ratio), while high leverage firms are those that raised funds when their market valuations were low. The influence of past market valuations in capital structure is economically significant and statistically robust. The influence of past market valuations on capital structure is also quite persistent, this means that they have a long-run impact.
The tradeoff theory predicts that temporary fluctuations in the market-to-book ratio or any other variable should have temporary effects. The evidence however indicates long-term effects as well. The standard pecking-order theory implies that periods of high investment will push leverage higher toward a debt capacity, not lower as the results in this paper suggest. The theory of entrenched managers suggests that managers exploit existing investors ex post by not rebalancing the capital structure with debt, this may be an explanation of