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Reconciling the Return Predictability Evidence

  • Martin Lettau
  • Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh

Evidence of stock return predictability by financial ratios is still controversial, as documented by inconsistent results for in-sample and out-of-sample regressions and by substantial parameter instability. This paper shows that these seemingly incompatible results can be reconciled if the assumption of a fixed steady-state mean of the economy is relaxed. We find strong empirical evidence in support of shifts in the steady-state and propose simple methods to adjust financial ratios for such shifts. The forecasting relationship of adjusted price ratios and future returns is statistically significant and stable over time. We also show that shifts in the steady-state are responsible for the parameter instability and poor out-of-sample performance of unadjusted price ratios that are found in the data. Our conclusions hold for a variety of financial ratios and are robust to changes in the econometric technique used to estimate shifts in the steady-state.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12109.

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Date of creation: Mar 2006
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Publication status: published as Martin Lettau & Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, 2008. "Reconciling the Return Predictability Evidence," Review of Financial Studies, Oxford University Press for Society for Financial Studies, vol. 21(4), pages 1607-1652, July.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12109
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