Default Risk and Aggregate Fluctuations in an Economy with Production Heterogeneity
AbstractWe study aggregate fluctuations in an economy where fi rms have persistent differences in total factor productivities, capital and debt or fi nancial assets. Investment is funded by retained earnings and non-contingent debt. Firms may default upon loans, and this risk leads to a unit cost of borrowing that rises with the level of debt and falls with the value of collateral. On average, larger fi rms, those with more collateral, have higher levels of investment than smaller fi rms with less collateral. Since large and small fi rms draw from the same productivity distribution, this implies an insufficient allocation of capital in small fi rms and thus reduces aggregate total factor productivity, capital and GDP.
We consider business cycles driven by shocks to aggregate total factor productivity and by credit shocks. The latter are financial shocks that worsen fi rms cash on hand and reduce the fraction of collateral lenders can seize in the event of default. In equilibrium, our nonlinear loan rate schedules drive countercyclical default risk and exit, alongside procyclical entry. Because a negative productivity shock raises default probabilities, it leads to a modest reduction in the number of firms and a deterioration in the allocation of capital that amplifi es the effect of the shock. The recession following a negative credit shock is qualitatively different from that following a productivity shock, and more closely resembles the 2007 U.S. recession in several respects. A rise in default and a substantial fall in entry yield a large decline in the number of rms. Measured TFP falls for several periods, as do employment, investment and GDP, and the ultimate declines in investment and employment are large relative to that in TFP. Moreover, the recovery following a credit shock is gradual given slow recoveries in TFP, aggregate capital, and the measure of firms.