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Capital Structure and Stock Returns

Yale University and National Bureau of Economic Research

U.S. corporations do not issue and repurchase debt and equity to counteract the mechanistic effects of stock returns on their debt‐equity ratios. Thus over one‐ to five‐year horizons, stock returns can explain about 40 percent of debt ratio dynamics. Although corporate net issuing activity is lively and although it can explain 60 percent of debt ratio dynamics (long‐term debt issuing activity being most capital structure–relevant), corporate issuing motives remain largely a mystery. When stock returns are accounted for, many other proxies used in the literature play a much lesser role in explaining capital structure.