Columbus' Egg: The Real Determinant of Capital Structure
NBER Working Paper No. 8782
This paper shows that managers fail to readjust their capital structure in response to external stock returns. Thus, the typical firm's capital structure is not caused by attempts to time the market, by attempts to minimize taxes or bankruptcy costs, or by any other attempts at firm-value maximization. Instead, capital structure is almost entirely determined by lagged stock returns (which, when applied to ancient equity values, predict current equity value and with it debt equity ratios). Consequently, one should conclude that capital structure is determined primarily by external stock market influences, and not by internal corporate optimizing decisions.
Published: Welch, Ivo. "Capital Structure and Stock Returns." Journal of Political Economy 112-1 (February 2004): 106-131.