NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Effect of Uncertainty on Investment: Evidence from Texas Oil Drilling

Ryan Kellogg

NBER Working Paper No. 16541
Issued in November 2010
NBER Program(s):   EEE   EFG   IO

Despite widespread application of real options theory in the literature, the extent to which firms actually delay irreversible investments following an increase in the uncertainty of their environment is not empirically well-known. This paper estimates firms’ responsiveness to changes in uncertainty using detailed data on oil well drilling in Texas and expectations of future oil price volatility derived from the NYMEX futures options market. Using a dynamic model of firms’ investment problem, I find that oil companies respond to changes in expected price volatility by adjusting their drilling activity by a magnitude consistent with the optimal response prescribed by theory.

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