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The Capital Asset Pricing Model: Theory and Evidence

  • Eugene F. Fama
  • Kenneth R. French

The capital asset pricing model (CAPM) of William Sharpe (1964) and John Lintner (1965) marks the birth of asset pricing theory (resulting in a Nobel Prize for Sharpe in 1990). Before their breakthrough, there were no asset pricing models built from first principles about the nature of tastes and investment opportunities and with clear testable predictions about risk and return. Four decades later, the CAPM is still widely used in applications, such as estimating the cost of equity capital for firms and evaluating the performance of managed portfolios. And it is the centerpiece, indeed often the only asset pricing model taught in MBA level investment courses. The attraction of the CAPM is its powerfully simple logic and intuitively pleasing predictions about how to measure risk and about the relation between expected return and risk. Unfortunately, perhaps because of its simplicity, the empirical record of the model is poor--poor enough to invalidate the way it is used in applications. The model's empirical problems may reflect true failings. (It is, after all, just a model.) But they may also be due to shortcomings of the empirical tests, most notably, poor proxies for the market portfolio of invested wealth, which plays a central role in the model's predictions. We argue, however, that if the market proxy problem invalidates tests of the model, it also invalidates most applications, which typically borrow the market proxies used in empirical tests. For perspective on the CAPM's predictions about risk and expected return, we begin with a brief summary of its logic. We then review the history of empirical work on the model and what it says about shortcomings of the CAPM that pose challenges to be explained by more complicated models.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 18 (2004)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 25-46

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:18:y:2004:i:3:p:25-46
Note: DOI: 10.1257/0895330042162430
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  1. Robert Stambaugh, . "On the Exclusion of Assets from Tests of the Two-Parameter Model: A Sensitivity Analysis," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 13-81, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
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  3. Chan, Louis K C & Hamao, Yasushi & Lakonishok, Josef, 1991. " Fundamentals and Stock Returns in Japan," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(5), pages 1739-64, December.
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  9. Bhandari, Laxmi Chand, 1988. " Debt/Equity Ratio and Expected Common Stock Returns: Empirical Evidence," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(2), pages 507-28, June.
  10. Lubos Pástor & Robert F. Stambaugh, . "Costs of Equity Capital and Model Mispricing," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 04-98, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  11. Fama, Eugene F, 1970. "Efficient Capital Markets: A Review of Theory and Empirical Work," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 25(2), pages 383-417, May.
  12. Roll, Richard, 1977. "A critique of the asset pricing theory's tests Part I: On past and potential testability of the theory," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 129-176, March.
  13. Fama, Eugene F & French, Kenneth R, 1992. " The Cross-Section of Expected Stock Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 47(2), pages 427-65, June.
  14. Jegadeesh, Narasimhan & Titman, Sheridan, 1993. " Returns to Buying Winners and Selling Losers: Implications for Stock Market Efficiency," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 48(1), pages 65-91, March.
  15. Carhart, Mark M, 1997. " On Persistence in Mutual Fund Performance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(1), pages 57-82, March.
  16. Mitchell, Mark L & Stafford, Erik, 2000. "Managerial Decisions and Long-Term Stock Price Performance," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 73(3), pages 287-329, July.
  17. Kothari, S P & Shanken, Jay & Sloan, Richard G, 1995. " Another Look at the Cross-Section of Expected Stock Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 50(1), pages 185-224, March.
  18. Michael C. Jensen, 1968. "The Performance Of Mutual Funds In The Period 1945–1964," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 23(2), pages 389-416, 05.
  19. Ross, Stephen A., 1976. "The arbitrage theory of capital asset pricing," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 341-360, December.
  20. Reinganum, Marc R., 1981. "A New Empirical Perspective on the CAPM," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(04), pages 439-462, November.
  21. Tuomo Vuolteenaho, 2002. "What Drives Firm-Level Stock Returns?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(1), pages 233-264, 02.
  22. Fama, Eugene F., 1996. "Multifactor Portfolio Efficiency and Multifactor Asset Pricing," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(04), pages 441-465, December.
  23. Blume, Marshall E & Friend, Irwin, 1973. "A New Look at the Capital Asset Pricing Model," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 28(1), pages 19-33, March.
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