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The Declining Equity Premium: What Role Does Macroeconomic Risk Play?

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  • Lettau, Martin
  • Ludvigson, Sydney
  • Wachter, Jessica

Abstract

Aggregate stock prices, relative to virtually any indicator of fundamental value, soared to unprecedented levels in the 1990s. Even today, after the market declines since 2000, they remain well above historical norms. Why? We consider one particular explanation: a fall in macroeconomic risk, or the volatility of the aggregate economy. Empirically, we find a strong correlation between low frequency movements in macroeconomic volatility and low frequency movements in the stock market. To model this phenomenon, we estimate a two-state regime switching model for the volatility and mean of consumption growth, and find evidence of a shift to substantially lower consumption volatility at the beginning of the 1990s. We then use these estimates from post-war data to calibrate a rational asset pricing model with regime switches in both the mean and standard deviation of consumption growth. Plausible parameterizations of the model are found to account for a significant portion of the run-up in asset valuation ratios observed in the late 1990s.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5519.

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Date of creation: Mar 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5519

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Keywords: equity premium; macroeconomic volatility; regime shifts; stock market boom;

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  1. Martin Lettau & Sydney C. Ludvigson, 2004. "Understanding Trend and Cycle in Asset Values: Reevaluating the Wealth Effect on Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 276-299, March.
  2. John Heaton & Deborah Lucas, 2000. "Stock Prices and Fundamentals," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1999, Volume 14, pages 213-264 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Martin Lettau & Sydney C. Ludvigson & Jessica A. Wachter, 2008. "The Declining Equity Premium: What Role Does Macroeconomic Risk Play?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 21(4), pages 1653-1687, July.
  4. Bonomo, Marco & Garcia, Rene, 1994. "Can a Well-Fitted Equilibrium Asset-Pricing Model Produce Mean Reversion?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(1), pages 19-29, Jan.-Marc.
  5. Lettau, Martin & Ludvigson, Sydney, 2002. "Expected Returns and Expected Dividend Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 3507, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. John Y. Campbell, 1990. "A Variance Decomposition for Stock Returns," NBER Working Papers 3246, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Sydney Ludvigson, 1996. "Consumption and credit: a model of time-varying liquidity constraints," Research Paper 9624, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  8. Fama, Eugene F. & French, Kenneth R., 2001. "Disappearing dividends: changing firm characteristics or lower propensity to pay?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 3-43, April.
  9. Barsky, Robert B, 1989. "Why Don't the Prices of Stocks and Bonds Move Together?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 1132-45, December.
  10. Marco Cagetti & Lars Peter Hansen & Thomas Sargent & Noah Williams, 2002. "Robustness and Pricing with Uncertain Growth," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(2), pages 363-404, March.
  11. Attanasio, Orazio P & Weber, Guglielmo, 1993. "Consumption Growth, the Interest Rate and Aggregation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 631-49, July.
  12. Abel, Andrew B., 1999. "Risk premia and term premia in general equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 3-33, February.
  13. Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "Limited Asset Market Participation and the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 825-853, August.
  14. Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "Limited Asset Market Participation and the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution," NBER Working Papers 8896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Bansal, Ravi & Lundblad, Christian, 2002. "Market efficiency, asset returns, and the size of the risk premium in global equity markets," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 109(2), pages 195-237, August.
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