April 2012

Credit Line Use and Availability in the Financial Crisis: The Importance of Hedging

Jose M. Berrospide, Ralf R. Meisenzahl, and Briana D. Sullivan


What determined the corporate use of credit lines in the recent financial crisis? To address this question we hand-collect data on credit lines and interest rate hedging for a random sample of 600 COMPUSTAT firms. We document that drawdowns of credit lines had already increased in 2007, earlier than what previous work has found. The surge in drawdowns occurred precisely when disruptions in bank funding markets began. In addition, we distinguish unused and available portions of credit lines, which we then use to disentangle credit supply and credit demand effects. On the supply side, we find covenant-induced reduction of credit supply to be small, and almost no evidence of credit line cancellations. On the demand side, our results confirm that while smaller and lower-rated firms use their credit lines more intensively in general, larger and higher-rated firms were more likely to draw on their credit lines during the crisis. We find that firms that use interest rate swaps to hedge the interest rate risk associated with their credit lines draw down significantly more from those lines than non-hedged firms.

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Keywords: Credit lines, financial crisis, liquidity management, hedging

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Last Update: July 10, 2020