Learning how to utilize new technologies is a key step in innovation, yet little is known about how firms actually learn. This paper examines firms’ learning behavior using data on their operational choices, profits, and information sets. I study companies using hydraulic fracturing in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale formation, where firms must learn the relationship between fracking input use and oil production. Using a new dataset that covers every well since the introduction of fracking to this formation, I find that firms made more profitable input choices over time, but did so slowly and incompletely, only capturing 69% of possible profits from fracking at the end of 2011. To understand what factors may have limited learning, I estimate a model of fracking input use in the presence of technology uncertainty. Firms are more likely to make fracking input choices with higher expected profits and lower standard deviation of profits, consistent with passive learning but not active experimentation. Most firms over-weight their own information relative to observable information generated by others. These results suggest the existence of economically important frictions in the learning process.
Many financial markets have recently become subject to new regulations requiring transparency. This paper studies how mandatory transparency affects trading in the corporate bond market. In July 2002, TRACE began requiring the public dissemination of post-trade price and volume information for corporate bonds. Dissemination took place in Phases, with actively traded, investment grade bonds becoming transparent before thinly traded, high-yield bonds. Using new data and a differences-in-differences research design, we find that transparency causes a significant decrease in price dispersion for all bonds and a significant decrease in trading activity for some categories of bonds. The largest decrease in daily price standard deviation, 24.7%, and the largest decrease in trading activity, 41.3%, occurs for bonds in the final Phase, which consisted primarily of high-yield bonds. These results indicate that mandated transparency may help some investors and dealers through a decline in price dispersion, while harming others through a reduction in trading activity.
This paper describes the market for borrowing corporate bonds using a comprehensive data set from a major lender. The cost of borrowing corporate bonds is comparable to the cost of borrowing stock, between 10 and 20 basis points, and both have fallen over time. Factors that influence borrowing costs are loan size, percentage of inventory lent, rating, and borrower identity. There is no evidence that bond short sellers have private information. Bonds with Credit Default Swaps (CDS) contracts are more actively lent than those without. Finally, the 2007 Credit Crunch does not affect average borrowing costs or loan volume, but does increase borrowing cost variance.