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The finance uncertainty multiplier

May 2018
Working Paper
By  Nicholas Bloom, Ivan Alfaro, Xiaoji Lin
We show how real and financial frictions amplify the impact of uncertainty shocks. We build a model with real frictions, and find adding financial frictions roughly doubles the impact of uncertainty shocks. Higher uncertainty alongside financial frictions induces the standard real-options effects on investment and hiring, but also leads firms to hoard cash, further reducing investment and hiring. We then test the model using a panel of US firms and a novel instrumentation strategy for uncertainty exploiting differential firm exposure to exchange rate and price volatility. These results highlight why in periods with greater financial frictions uncertainty can be particularly damaging.