Using a novel measure of the degree of information asymmetry across firms, this study shows that information-related financial market imperfections do matter for a firm's access to external finance. Prior studies of the importance of liquidity constraints faced by nonfinancial firms have suffered from a glaring weakness. They have been based on a sample of publicly traded firms, omitting precisely those firms most likely to be liquidity constrained. Furthermore, they have tended to rely on indirect measures of the degree of information asymmetry, such as firm size. We overcome these limitations by focusing on the banking sector. Unlike the nonfinancial sector, the banking sector has balance sheet and income data available for all firms, whether or not they are publicly traded. This allows the use of a superior measure of the degree of information asymmetry across firms by distinguishing between publicly traded and non-publicly traded banks. We focus on changes in monetary policy that represent exogenous (to the banks) changes in the financing constraints they face. We find that publicly traded banks, which exhibit a lower degree of information asymmetry, are better able to overcome information-based financial market frictions, compared to the relatively opaque non-publicly traded banks, when monetary policy is tightened. Lending by the more transparent publicly traded banks is less affected by a monetary policy tightening in large part due to their relative advantage in raising external funds by issuing uninsured large time deposits. These results are obtained controlling for bank (and bank holding company) size, a dimension commonly used in the literature as the measure of the degree of firm access to external finance. Moreover, we show that the distinction between publicly traded and non-publicly traded banks dominates bank size as an indicator of the degree of access to external funds.
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