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The Nominal Share Price Puzzle


  • William C. Weld
  • Roni Michaely
  • Richard H. Thaler
  • Shlomo Benartzi


The average nominal share prices of common stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange have remained constant at approximately $35 per share since the Great Depression as a result of stock splits. It is surprising that U.S. firms actively maintained constant nominal prices for their shares while general prices in the economy went up more than tenfold. This is especially puzzling given that commissions paid by investors on trading ten $35 shares are about ten times those paid on a single $350 share. We review potential explanations including signaling and optimal trading ranges and find that none of the existing theories are able to explain the observed constant nominal prices. We suggest that the evidence is consistent with the idea that customs and norms can explain the nominal price puzzle.

Suggested Citation

  • William C. Weld & Roni Michaely & Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2009. "The Nominal Share Price Puzzle," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 121-142, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:23:y:2009:i:2:p:121-42 Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.23.2.121

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kaustia, Markku & Rantala, Ville, 2015. "Social learning and corporate peer effects," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(3), pages 653-669.
    2. Fernando, Chitru S. & Gatchev, Vladimir A. & Spindt, Paul A., 2012. "Institutional ownership, analyst following, and share prices," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 2175-2189.
    3. Jen-Chang Liu & Mark Yeats, 2015. "The Anomaly of 28 Days Between the Ex-Dividend and Payment Dates in Taiwanese Stock Markets," Asian Economic and Financial Review, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 5(9), pages 1091-1118, September.
    4. French, Declan & Wu, Yuliang & Li, Youwei, 2016. "Identifying the relative importance of stock characteristics," Journal of Multinational Financial Management, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 80-91.
    5. Adam Zaremba & Rados³aw ¯mudziñski, 2014. "The Low Price Effect On The Polish Market," "e-Finanse", University of Information Technology and Management, Institute of Financial Research and Analysis, vol. 10(1), pages 69-85, June.
    6. Devos, Erik & Elliott, William B. & Warr, Richard S., 2015. "CEO opportunism?: Option grants and stock trades around stock splits," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 18-35.
    7. repec:eee:empfin:v:44:y:2017:i:c:p:1-18 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Keith Jakob & Ryan Whitby, 2017. "The impact of nominal stock price on ex-dividend price responses," Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting, Springer, vol. 48(4), pages 939-953, May.
    9. Perez, M. Fabricio & Shkilko, Andriy & Sokolov, Konstantin, 2015. "Factor models for binary financial data," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 61(S2), pages 177-188.
    10. repec:eee:corfin:v:46:y:2017:i:c:p:34-50 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Birru, Justin & Wang, Baolian, 2016. "Nominal price illusion," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(3), pages 578-598.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • N22 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-


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