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Consumption, Aggregate Wealth, and Expected Stock Returns

  • Martin Lettau

This paper studies the role of fluctuations in the aggregate consumption-wealth ratio for predicting stock returns. Using U.S. quarterly stock market data, we find that these fluctuations in the consumption-wealth ratio are strong predictors of both real stock returns and excess returns over a Treasury bill rate. We also find that this variable is a better forecaster of future returns at short and intermediate horizons than is the dividend yield, the dividend payout ratio, and several other popular forecasting variables. Why should the consumption-wealth ratio forecast asset returns? We show that a wide class of optimal models of consumer behavior imply that the log consumption-aggregate wealth (human capital plus asset holdings) ratio summarizes expected returns on aggregate wealth, or the market portfolio. Although this ratio is not observable, we provide assumptions under which its important predictive components for future asset returns may be xpressed in terms of observable variables, namely in terms of consumption, asset holdings and labor income. The framework implies that these variables are cointegrated, and that deviations from this shared trend summarize agents' expectations of future returns on the market portfolio. Copyright The American Finance Association 2001.

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Article provided by American Finance Association in its journal The Journal of Finance.

Volume (Year): 56 (2001)
Issue (Month): 3 (06)
Pages: 815-849

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Handle: RePEc:bla:jfinan:v:56:y:2001:i:3:p:815-849
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  1. Hall, Robert E, 1988. "Intertemporal Substitution in Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 339-57, April.
  2. Robert J. Hodrick & David Tat-Chee Ng & Paul Sengmueller, 1999. "An International Dynamic Asset Pricing Model," NBER Working Papers 7157, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Todd E. Clark, 1996. "Finite-sample properties of tests for forecast equivalence," Research Working Paper 96-03, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
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  10. John H. Cochrane, 1991. "Volatility Tests and Efficient Markets: A Review Essay," NBER Working Papers 3591, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Merton, Robert C, 1973. "An Intertemporal Capital Asset Pricing Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(5), pages 867-87, September.
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  19. Flavin, Marjorie A, 1981. "The Adjustment of Consumption to Changing Expectations about Future Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 974-1009, October.
  20. Campbell, John & Perron, Pierre, 1991. "Pitfalls and Opportunities: What Macroeconomists Should Know about Unit Roots," Scholarly Articles 3374863, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  21. Fama, Eugene F. & French, Kenneth R., 1989. "Business conditions and expected returns on stocks and bonds," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 23-49, November.
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  29. repec:fth:harver:1435 is not listed on IDEAS
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