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Cash Holdings and Credit Risk



Publishing details

Publication Year



Intuition suggests that firms with higher cash holdings are safer and should have lower credit spreads. Yet empirically the correlation between cash and spreads is robustly positive, and higher for lower credit ratings. This puzzling finding can be explained by the precautionary motive for saving cash. In our model endogenously determined optimal cash reserves are positively related to credit risk, resulting in a spurious positive correlation between cash and spreads. By contrast, spreads are negatively related to the "exogenous" component of cash holdings independent of credit risk factors. Similarly, although firms with higher cash reserves are less likely to default over short horizons, longer term endogenously determined liquidity may be positively related to the probability of default. Our empirical analysis confirms these predictions, suggesting that endogenous precautionary savings are central to understanding the effects of cash on credit risk.


Credit risk; Default; Liquidity; Cash holdings; Precautionary savings

Publication Research Centre

Institute of Finance and Accounting

Series Number

FIN 472


IFA Working Paper

Available on ECCH


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