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Gold Returns

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  • Robert J. Barro
  • Sanjay P. Misra

Abstract

From 1836 to 2011, the average real rate of price change for gold in the United States is 1.1% per year and the standard deviation is 13.1%, implying a one-standard-deviation confidence band for the mean of (0.1%, 2.1%). The covariances of gold's real rate of price change with consumption and GDP growth rates are small and statistically insignificantly different from zero. These negligible covariances suggest that gold's expected real rate of return--which includes an unobserved dividend yield--would be close to the risk-free rate, estimated to be around 1%. We study these properties within an asset-pricing model in which ordinary consumption and gold services are imperfect substitutes for the representative household. Disaster and other shocks impinge directly on consumption and GDP but not on stocks of gold. With a high elasticity of substitution between gold services and ordinary consumption, the model can generate a mean real rate of price change within the (0.1%, 2.1%) confidence band along with a small risk premium for gold. In this scenario, the bulk of gold's expected return corresponds to the unobserved dividend yield (the implicit rental income from holding gold) and only a small part comprises expected real price appreciation. Nevertheless, the uncertainty in gold returns is concentrated in the price-change component. The model can explain the time-varying volatility of real gold prices if preference shocks for gold services are small under the classical gold standard but large in other periods particularly because of shifting monetary roles for gold.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert J. Barro & Sanjay P. Misra, 2013. "Gold Returns," NBER Working Papers 18759, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18759
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
    2. Philippe Weil, 1990. "Nonexpected Utility in Macroeconomics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(1), pages 29-42.
    3. Ravi Bansal & Amir Yaron, 2004. "Risks for the Long Run: A Potential Resolution of Asset Pricing Puzzles," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(4), pages 1481-1509, August.
    4. Rietz, Thomas A., 1988. "The equity risk premium a solution," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 117-131, July.
    5. Robert J. Barro, 2009. "Rare Disasters, Asset Prices, and Welfare Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 243-264, March.
    6. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "Money and the Price Level under the Gold Standard," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 89(353), pages 13-33, March.
    7. Xavier Gabaix, 2012. "Variable Rare Disasters: An Exactly Solved Framework for Ten Puzzles in Macro-Finance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(2), pages 645-700.
    8. John Y. Campbell, 1986. "Bond and Stock Returns in a Simple Exchange Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(4), pages 785-803.
    9. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1989. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: A Theoretical Framework," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 937-969, July.
    10. Abel, Andrew B., 1999. "Risk premia and term premia in general equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 3-33, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Malliaris, A.G. & Malliaris, Mary, 2015. "What drives gold returns? A decision tree analysis," Finance Research Letters, Elsevier, vol. 13(C), pages 45-53.
    2. repec:eee:ecanpo:v:54:y:2017:i:c:p:57-73 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:jimfin:v:79:y:2017:i:c:p:203-217 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • N20 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - General, International, or Comparative

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