IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Declining Equity Premium: What Role Does Macroeconomic Risk Play?

  • Martin Lettau
  • Sydney C. Ludvigson
  • Jessica A. 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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10270.

in new window

Date of creation: Feb 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Lettau, Martin, Sydney C. Ludvigson, and Jessica A. Wachter. "The Declining Equity Premium: What Role Does Macroeconomic Risk Play?" Review of Financial Studies 21(4): 1653-1687, July 2008
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10270
Note: AP
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "Limited Asset Market Participation and the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution," NBER Working Papers 8896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Martin Lettau & Sydney Ludvigson, 2003. "Understanding Trend and Cycle in Asset Values: Reevaluating the Wealth Effect on Consumption," NBER Working Papers 9848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Lettau, Martin & Ludvigson, Sydney C., 2005. "Expected returns and expected dividend growth," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 583-626, June.
  4. Abel, Andrew B., 1999. "Risk premia and term premia in general equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 3-33, February.
  5. Eugene F. Fama & Kenneth R. French, 2001. "Disappearing Dividends: Changing Firm Characteristics Or Lower Propensity To Pay?," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 14(1), pages 67-79.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Martin Lettau & Sydney C. Ludvigson & Jessica A. Wachter, 2008. "The Declining Equity Premium: What Role Does Macroeconomic Risk Play?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 21(4), pages 1653-1687, July.
  9. 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.
  10. MArco Antonio Bonomo & Rene Garcia, 1992. "Can a well-fitted equilibrium asset pricing model produce mean reversion?," Textos para discuss√£o 270, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).
  11. Sydney Ludvigson, 1999. "Consumption And Credit: A Model Of Time-Varying Liquidity Constraints," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(3), pages 434-447, August.
  12. John Y. Campbell, 1990. "A Variance Decomposition for Stock Returns," NBER Working Papers 3246, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Barsky, Robert B, 1989. "Why Don't the Prices of Stocks and Bonds Move Together?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 1132-45, December.
  14. 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.
  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. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10270. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.