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The Dog That Did Not Bark: A Defense of Return Predictability

  • John H. Cochrane

To question the statistical significance of return predictability, we cannot specify a null that simply turns off that predictability, leaving dividend growth predictability at its essentially zero sample value. If neither returns nor dividend growth are predictable, then the dividend-price ratio is a constant. If the null turns off return predictability, it must turn on the predictability of dividend growth, and then confront the evidence against such predictability in the data. I find that the absence of dividend growth predictability gives much stronger statistical evidence against the null, with roughly 1-2% probability values, than does the presence of return predictability, which only gives about 20% probability values. I argue that tests based on long-run return and dividend growth regressions provide the cleanest and most interpretable evidence on return predictability, again delivering about 1-2% probability values against the hypothesis that returns are unpredictable. I show that Goyal and Welch's (2005) finding of poor out-of-sample R2 does not reject return forecastability. Out-of-sample R2 is poor even if all dividend yield variation comes from time-varying expected returns.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12026.

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Date of creation: Feb 2006
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Publication status: published as Cochrane, John. "The Dog That Did Not Bark: A Defense of Return Predictability.” Review of Financial Studies 21, 4 (2008): 1533-1575.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12026
Note: AP
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  1. Goetzmann, W.N., 1990. "Testing The Predictive Power Of Dividend Yields," Papers fb-_90-12, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  2. Amit Goval & Ivo Welch, 2004. "A Comprehensive Look at the Empirical Performance of Equity Premium Prediction," NBER Working Papers 10483, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  11. Gregory Mankiw, N. & Shapiro, Matthew D., 1986. "Do we reject too often? : Small sample properties of tests of rational expectations models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 139-145.
  12. Campbell, John, 2001. "Why Long Horizons? A Study of Power Against Persistent Alternatives," Scholarly Articles 3196341, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  14. Jacob Boudoukh & Matthew Richardson & Robert Whitelaw, 2005. "The Myth of Long-Horizon Predictability," NBER Working Papers 11841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Kandel, Shmuel & Stambaugh, Robert F, 1996. " On the Predictability of Stock Returns: An Asset-Allocation Perspective," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(2), pages 385-424, June.
  16. Jacob Boudoukh & Roni Michaely & Matthew Richardson & Michael Roberts, 2004. "On the Importance of Measuring Payout Yield: Implications for Empirical Asset Pricing," NBER Working Papers 10651, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  26. Kothari, S. P. & Shanken, Jay, 1997. "Book-to-market, dividend yield, and expected market returns: A time-series analysis," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 169-203, May.
  27. Hodrick, Robert J, 1992. "Dividend Yields and Expected Stock Returns: Alternative Procedures for Inference and Measurement," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 5(3), pages 357-86.
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