Why are U.S. firms holding more cash?

Somehow I missed this 2014 paper when it came out:

This paper explores the hypothesis that the rise in intangible capital is a fundamental driver of the secular trend in US corporate cash holdings over the last decades. Using a new measure, we show that intangible capital is the most important firm-level determinant of corporate cash holdings. Our measure accounts for almost as much of the secular increase in cash since the 1980s as all other determinants together. We then develop a new dynamic dynamic model of corporate cash holdings with two types of productive assets, tangible and intangible capital. Since only tangible capital can be pledged as collateral, a shift toward greater reliance on intangible capital shrinks the debt capacity of firms and leads them to optimally hold more cash in order to preserve financial flexibility.

That is from Antonio Falato, Dalida Kadyrzhanova, and Jae W. Sim.  Once again, it seems that intangible capital is one of the biggest underrated ideas in economics.


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