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Leverage (finance)

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Understanding Financial Leverage

In finance, leverage (or gearing due to its analogy with a gearbox) is borrowing money to supplement existing funds for investment in such a way that the potential positive or negative outcome is magnified and/or enhanced. It generally refers to using borrowed funds, or debt, so as to attempt to increase the returns to equity. Deleveraging is the action of reducing borrowings.[1]

In macroeconomics, a key measure of leverage is the debt to GDP ratio.



[edit]Types of leverage

[edit]Financial leverage

Financial leverage (FL) takes the form of a loan or other borrowings (debt), the proceeds of which are (re)invested with the intent to earn a greater rate of return than the cost of interest. If the firm's rate of return on assets (ROA) is higher than the rate of interest on the loan, then its return on equity (ROE) will be higher than if it did not borrow because assets = equity + debt (see accounting equation). On the other hand, if the firm's ROA is lower than the interest rate, then its ROE will be lower than if it did not borrow. Leverage allows greater potential returns to the investor than otherwise would have been available but the potential for loss is also greater because if the investment becomes worthless, the loan principal and all accrued interest on the loan still need to be repaid.

Margin buying is a common way of utilizing the concept of leverage in investing. An unleveraged firm can be seen as an all-equity firm, whereas a leveraged firm is made up of ownership equity and debt. A firm'sdebt to equity ratio is therefore an indication of its leverage. This debt to equity ratio's influence on the value of a firm is described in the Modigliani-Miller theorem. As is true of operating leverage, the degree of financial leverage measures the effect of a change in one variable on another variable. Degree of financial leverage (DFL) may be defined as the percentage change in earnings (earnings per share) that occurs as a result of a percentage change in earnings before interest and taxes.