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Real Effects of Financial Distress: The Role of Heterogeneity
E44 - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
F34 - International Lending and Debt Problems
G12 - Asset Pricing
H63 - Debt; Debt Management
What are the heterogeneous effects of financial shocks on firms' behavior? This paper evaluates and answers this question from both an empirical and a theoretical perspective. Using micro data from Portugal during the sovereign debt crisis, starting in 2010, we document that highly leveraged firms and firms that had a larger share of short-term debt on their balance sheets contracted more in the aftermath of a financial shock. We use a standard model to analyze the conditions under which leverage and debt maturity determine the sensitivity of firms' investment decisions to financial shocks. We show that the presence of long-term investment projects and frictions to the issuance of long-term debt are needed for the model to rationalize the empirical findings. We conclude that the differential responses of firms to a financial shock do not provide unambiguous information to identify these shocks. Rather, we argue that this information should be use to test for the relevance of important model assumptions.