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Understanding Trend and Cycle in Asset Values: Bulls, Bears and the Wealth Effect on Consumption


  • Lettau, Martin
  • Ludvigson, Sydney


This Paper uses restrictions implied by cointegration to identify the permanent and transitory elements (the ‘trend’ and ‘cycle’) of household asset wealth. Our empirical analysis yields answers to the following questions: 1. Is there a large transitory component in household net worth or is wealth close to a random walk? Our point estimates imply that a striking 85% of the post-war variation in the growth of household net worth is transitory, attributable to fluctuations in the stock market component of wealth. Transitory wealth shocks are quite persistent, affecting asset values for a number of years. This transitory element picks out the ‘bull markets’ of the late 1960s and 1990s, and the ‘bear’ markets of the 1970s. If markets are efficient, these transitory fluctuations must be attributable to time-variation in the required rate of return on assets (discount rates). 2. How is transitory variation in household net worth related to consumer spending? Does consumption adapt with a lag to permanent movements in wealth? Despite their quantitative importance, transitory fluctuations in asset values are found to be unrelated to aggregate consumer spending. Instead, aggregate consumption can be well described as a function of the trend components in wealth and income. We find no evidence that consumption adapts with a long lag to fluctuations in wealth. 3. What kinds of shocks govern the dynamic behaviour of consumption, asset wealth and labour income? We characterize three: a permanent income shock that affects consumption, asset wealth and labour earnings without distorting their long-run equilibrium relation; an income redistributive shock that shifts the composition of income between labour and capital; and a discount rate shock that generates transitory variation in asset values.

Suggested Citation

  • Lettau, Martin & Ludvigson, Sydney, 2001. "Understanding Trend and Cycle in Asset Values: Bulls, Bears and the Wealth Effect on Consumption," CEPR Discussion Papers 3104, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3104

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ciarlone, Alessio, 2011. "Housing wealth effect in emerging economies," Emerging Markets Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 399-417.
    2. Laurent Clerk & Christian Pfister, 2003. "The role of financial factors in the transmission of monetary policy," BIS Papers chapters,in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Monetary policy in a changing environment, volume 19, pages 192-212 Bank for International Settlements.
    3. Alexander Ludwig & Torsten M Sloek, 2002. "The Impact of Changes in Stock Prices and House Priceson Consumption in OECD Countries," IMF Working Papers 02/1, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Tano Santos & Pietro Veronesi, 2000. "Labor Income and Predictable Stock Returns," CRSP working papers 520, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
    5. Alessio Ciarlone, 2012. "Wealth effects in emerging economies," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 843, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    6. Lettau, Martin & Ludvigson, Sydney, 2002. "Time-varying risk premia and the cost of capital: An alternative implication of the Q theory of investment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 31-66, January.
    7. Lise Pichette, 2004. "Are Wealth Effects Important for Canada," Bank of Canada Review, Bank of Canada, vol. 2004(Spring), pages 29-35.
    8. Tano Santos & Pietro Veronesi, 2001. "Labor Income and Predictable Stock Returns," NBER Working Papers 8309, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item


    asset values; cointegration; consumption; wealth effect;

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G10 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)


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