Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance,
Stockholm School of Economics

No 611: The Long-Term Relationship between Capital and Earnings in Banking

Per Hortlund ()
Additional contact information
Per Hortlund: Dept. of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics, Postal: The Ratio Institute, P.O. Box 5095, SE-102 42 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Contrary to received wisdom, some recent studies report a negative relationship between leverage and profitability in banking in the 1980s and early 1990s. This study presents new data on the leverage and profitability of Swedish commercial banks in 1870–2001, and explores the sign of the relationship in the long term. In the studied period, the capital-asset ratio decreased by a factor four, while return-on-equity more than doubled. The “leverage formula” postulates a positive linear relationship between return-on-equity and the debt-equity ratio. A strong positive linear relationship was found over the period 1871–1980, but not in 1980–2001. Thus, while supporting the results of the previous studies, a long-term “normal” positive relationship between leverage and profitability is also reaffirmed.

Keywords: Return-on-equity; Leverage; Bank capital

JEL-codes: G21; N23; N24

25 pages, First version: November 17, 2005. Revised: November 17, 2005.

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