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Tobin's q and Asset Returns: Implications for Business Cycle Analysis

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  • Lawrence J. Christiano
  • Jonas Fisher

Abstract

The marginal cost of plant capacity, measured by the price of equity is significantly procyclical. Yet, the price of a major intermediate input into expanding plant capacity, investment goods, is coutercyclical. The ratio of these prices is Tobin's q. We interpret the fact that Tobin's q differs from unity at all reflects that there are diminishing returns to expanding plant capacity by installing investment goods (`adjustment costs'). Also, its numerator and denominator have such different cyclical properties. We find the sign switch in their covariation with output reflects interaction of our adjustment cost specification with the operation of two shocks: one which affects the demand for equity and another which shifts the technology for producing investment goods. The adjustment costs cause the two prices to respond differently to these two shocks which is why it is possible to choose the shock variances to reproduce the sign switch. These model features are incorporated into a modified version of a model analyzed in Boldrin, Christiano and Fisher (1995) which contains assumptions designed to account for the observed mean return on risk free and risky assets. We find various modifications not only account for the sign switch but also continue to account for the salient features of mean asset returns. We turn to business cycle implications of our model. The model does as well as standard models with respect to conventional business cycle measures of volatility and comovement with output, and on one dimension the model significantly dominates standard models. The factors that help it account for prices and rates of return on assets also help it account for the fact that employment across a broad range of sectors moves together over the cycle.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5292.

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Date of creation: Oct 1995
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5292

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  1. Greenwood, J. & Hercowitz, Z. & Krusell, P., 1992. "Macroeconomic Implications of Investment-Specific Technological Change," Papers 527, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
  2. Jess Benhabib & Richard Rogerson & Randall Wright, 1991. "Homework in macroeconomics: household production and aggregate fluctuations," Staff Report 135, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
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  4. Fisher, Jonas D. M., 1997. "Relative prices, complementarities and comovement among components of aggregate expenditures," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 449-474, August.
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  6. Quah, Danny, 1990. "Permanent and Transitory Movements in Labor Income: An Explanation for "Excess Smoothness" in Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 449-75, June.
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  8. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1989. "Building Blocks of Market Clearing Business Cycle Models," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 247-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  11. Eichenbaum, Martin & Hansen, Lars Peter, 1990. "Estimating Models with Intertemporal Substitution Using Aggregate Time Series Data," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 8(1), pages 53-69, January.
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  13. Gibbons, Michael R., 1989. "On the volatility of bond prices," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 139-175, January.
  14. Rogerson, Richard, 1988. "Indivisible labor, lotteries and equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 3-16, January.
  15. Shiller, Robert J, 1981. "Do Stock Prices Move Too Much to be Justified by Subsequent Changes in Dividends?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 421-36, June.
  16. Christiano, Lawrence J., 1988. "Why does inventory investment fluctuate so much?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2-3), pages 247-280.
  17. Christiano, Lawrence J & Eichenbaum, Martin, 1992. "Current Real-Business-Cycle Theories and Aggregate Labor-Market Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 430-50, June.
  18. Robert J. Gordon, 1990. "The Measurement of Durable Goods Prices," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gord90-1, May.
  19. Hansen, Lars Peter & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1983. "Stochastic Consumption, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Asset Returns," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 249-65, April.
  20. Gary Hansen, 2010. "Indivisible Labor and the Business Cycle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 233, David K. Levine.
  21. Lucas, Robert E, Jr & Prescott, Edward C, 1971. "Investment Under Uncertainty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 39(5), pages 659-81, September.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Michele Boldrin & Lawrence J. Christiano & Jonas D.M. Fisher, 1997. "Habit persistence and asset returns in an exchange economy," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues WP-97-04, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  2. Robert G. King & Sergio T. Rebelo, 2000. "Resuscitating Real Business Cycles," RCER Working Papers 467, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  3. Lars-Alexander Kuehn, 2007. "Time-to-Build and Asset Prices," 2007 Meeting Papers 1015, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Miquel Faig, 1997. "INVESTMENT IRREVERSIBILITY IN GENERAL EQUILIBRIUM: Capital Accumulation, Interest Rates, and the Risk Premium," Working Papers faig-97-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  5. Greenwood, Jeremy & Hercowitz, Zvi & Krusell, Per, 2000. "The role of investment-specific technological change in the business cycle," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 91-115, January.
  6. Ramey, Valerie A & SHAPIRO, MATTHEW D, 1998. "Displaced Capital," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt49k7n14z, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  7. Gregory W. Huffman & Mark A. Wynne, 1995. "The role of intratemporal adjustment costs in a multi-sector economy," Working Papers 9508, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  8. Miquel Faig, 1999. "Asset Pricing, Growth, And The Business Cycle With Irreversible Investment," Working Papers faig-98-02, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  9. Ziv Chinzara & Radhika Lahiri & En Te chen, 2012. "Financial Globalisation and Sectoral Reallocation of Capital in South Africa," School of Economics and Finance Discussion Papers and Working Papers Series 286, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.

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