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The declining equity premium: what role does macroeconomic risk play?

  • Martin Lettau
  • Sydney Ludvigson
  • Jessica Wachter

Aggregate stock prices, relative to virtually any indicator of fundamental value, soared to unprecedented levels in the 1990s. Even today, after the market declines since 2000, they remain well above historical norms. Why? We consider one particular explanation: a fall in macroeconomic risk, or the volatility of the aggregate economy. We estimate a two-state regime switching model for the volatility and mean of consumption growth, and find evidence of a shift to substantially lower consumption volatility at the beginning of the 1990s. We then show that there is a strong and statistically robust correlation between low macroeconomic volatility and high asset prices: the estimated posterior probability of being in a low volatility state explains 30 to 60 percent of the post-war variation in the log price-dividend ratio, depending on the measure of consumption analyzed. Next, we study a rational asset pricing model with regime switches in both the mean and standard deviation of consumption growth, where the probabilities of a regime change are calibrated to match estimates from post-war data. Plausible parameterizations of the model are found to account for a significant fraction of the run-up in asset valuation ratios observed in the late 1990s.

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Volume (Year): (2005)
Issue (Month): ()
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgpr:y:2005:x:27
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  1. Martin Lettau & Sydney Ludvigson, 2003. "Expected Returns and Expected Dividend Growth," NBER Working Papers 9605, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "Limited Asset Market Participation and the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution," NBER Working Papers 8896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Robert B. Barsky, 1986. "Why Don't the Prices of Stocks and Bonds Move Together?," NBER Working Papers 2047, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Sydney Ludvigson, 1996. "Consumption and credit: a model of time-varying liquidity constraints," Research Paper 9624, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  5. Otrok, Christopher & Ravikumar, B. & Whiteman, Charles H., 2002. "Habit formation: a resolution of the equity premium puzzle?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(6), pages 1261-1288, September.
  6. John Heaton & Deborah Lucas, 2000. "Stock Prices and Fundamentals," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1999, Volume 14, pages 213-264 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Marco Cagetti & Lars Peter Hansen & Thomas Sargent & Noah Williams, 2002. "Robustness and Pricing with Uncertain Growth," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(2), pages 363-404, March.
  8. Fama, Eugene F. & French, Kenneth R., 2001. "Disappearing dividends: changing firm characteristics or lower propensity to pay?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 3-43, April.
  9. Martin Lettau & Sydney C. Ludvigson, 2004. "The Declining Equity Premium: What Role Does Macroeconomic Risk Play?," 2004 Meeting Papers 644, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Martin Lettau & Sydney C. Ludvigson, 2004. "Understanding Trend and Cycle in Asset Values: Reevaluating the Wealth Effect on Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 276-299, March.
  11. Campbell, John Y, 1991. "A Variance Decomposition for Stock Returns," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(405), pages 157-79, March.
  12. Bonomo, m. & Garcia, r., 1991. "Can Well-Fitted Equilibrium Asset Pricing Model Produce Mean Reversion?," Cahiers de recherche 9127, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  13. Bansal, Ravi & Lundblad, Christian, 2002. "Market efficiency, asset returns, and the size of the risk premium in global equity markets," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 109(2), pages 195-237, August.
  14. Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "Limited Asset Market Participation and the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 825-853, August.
  15. Attanasio, Orazio P & Weber, Guglielmo, 1993. "Consumption Growth, the Interest Rate and Aggregation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 631-49, July.
  16. Andrew B. Abel, 1998. "Risk Premia and Term Premia in General Equilibrium," NBER Working Papers 6683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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