Investment Under Uncertainty
43 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2007
Date Written: November 2006
A real options theory - in its classic formulation - suggests that firms invest less during times of high uncertainty, that is, uncertainty depresses investment. However, several theoretical extensions predict that the relationship between investment and uncertainty may be non-linear, or even non-monotonic, when classic model assumptions are violated. Some model parameters either reinforce or weaken the negative effect of uncertainty on investment, while others distort the investment-uncertainty relationship, making it follow an inverted U-curve. This paper is a first - to my knowledge - attempt to identify the factors affecting investment from various streams of theoretical literature on investor choice and uncertainty, and to assemble them in a single empirical framework. By employing a dynamic panel of oil company data and implied volatilities as measures of uncertainty, I am able to examine the impact of uncertainty on investment and the effect of several factors on the investment-uncertainty relationship. I obtain evidence in support of several predictions from the theory. Both economy-wide and firm-specific types of uncertainty, as well as financing constraints, are found to adversely affect investment, while industry-wide uncertainty has an ambiguous effect, depending on the level of output price. In tests for non-linearity in the investment-output price volatility relationship, I find that output price, firm size and its risk management ability weaken the investment-uncertainty relationship. On the other hand, market imperfection, financing constraints, the firm's maturity and its risk aversion re-enforce the negative effect of uncertainty. In addition, adjustment costs seem to be considerable, as firm investment reacts to changes in macroeconomic conditions with a noticeable delay.
Keywords: investment choice, real options, uncertainty, volatility, oil price
JEL Classification: C3, C5, D4, D8, G1
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