Capital over the business cycle: renting versus ownership

Working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 16 August 2013

Working Paper No. 478
By Peter N Gal and Gabor Pinter 

We find that capital renting makes up one fifth of US capital expenditures, and it increases during downturns. Further, we present cross-country evidence that output losses after financial crises are smaller where renting is more prevalent. To understand these findings, we build a general equilibrium model with borrowing constraints and with the option to rent or buy capital. The countercyclicality of rentals occurs because their supply increases, as renting serves as an additional means of savings when credit markets malfunction. Moreover, demand also shifts towards rentals as they become relatively cheaper. By absorbing excess savings, renting mitigates financial crises.

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