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Gold Returns

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  • Robert J. Barro
  • Sanjay P. Misra

Abstract

From 1836 to 2011, the average real rate of price change for gold in the United States is 1.1% per year and the standard deviation is 13.1%, implying a one-standard-deviation confidence band for the mean of (0.1%, 2.1%). The covariances of gold’s real rate of price change with consumption and GDP growth rates are small and statistically insignificantly different from zero. These negligible covariances suggest that gold’s expected real rate of return—which includes an unobserved dividend yield—would be close to the risk-free rate, estimated to be around 1%. We study these properties within an asset-pricing model in which ordinary consumption and gold services are imperfect substitutes for the representative household. Disaster and other shocks impinge directly on consumption and GDP but not on stocks of gold. With a high elasticity of substitution between gold services and ordinary consumption, the model can generate a mean real rate of price change within the (0.1%, 2.1%) confidence band along with a small risk premium for gold. In this scenario, the bulk of gold’s expected return corresponds to the unobserved dividend yield (the implicit rental income from holding gold) and only a small part comprises expected real price appreciation. Nevertheless, the uncertainty in gold returns is concentrated in the price-change component. The model can explain the time-varying volatility of real gold prices if preference shocks for gold services are small under the classical gold standard but large in other periods particularly because of shifting monetary roles for gold.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18759.

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Date of creation: Feb 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18759

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  1. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "Money and the Price Level under the Gold Standard," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 89(353), pages 13-33, March.
  2. Ravi Bansal & Amir Yaron, 2004. "Risks for the Long Run: A Potential Resolution of Asset Pricing Puzzles," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(4), pages 1481-1509, 08.
  3. Abel, Andrew B., 1999. "Risk premia and term premia in general equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 3-33, February.
  4. John Y. Campbell, 1987. "Bond and Stock Returns in a Simple Exchange Model," NBER Working Papers 1509, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1989. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: A Theoretical Framework," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 937-69, July.
  6. Rietz, Thomas A., 1988. "The equity risk premium a solution," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 117-131, July.
  7. R. Mehra & E. Prescott, 2010. "The equity premium: a puzzle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1401, David K. Levine.
  8. Xavier Gabaix, 2008. "Variable Rare Disasters: An Exactly Solved Framework for Ten Puzzles in Macro-Finance," NBER Working Papers 13724, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Weil, Philippe, 1990. "Nonexpected Utility in Macroeconomics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 29-42, February.
  10. Robert J. Barro, 2009. "Rare Disasters, Asset Prices, and Welfare Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 243-64, March.
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