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Volatility Tests and Efficient Markets: A Review Essay

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  • John H. Cochrane

Abstract

This essay examines what volatility tests tell us about the data and what implications we should derive from them. It argues that volatility tests do not tell us that "prices are too volatile", implying that "markets are inefficient", but rather that "(discounted) returns are forecastable", implying that "current discount rate models leave a residual". It also argues that the discount rate residuals documented by volatility tests (and equivalent return forecasting regressions or Euler equation tests) are suggestive of rational, business cycle-induced discount rate movements, rather than "fads" or other inefficiencies.

Suggested Citation

  • John H. Cochrane, 1991. "Volatility Tests and Efficient Markets: A Review Essay," NBER Working Papers 3591, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3591
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    1. N. Gregory Mankiw & David Romer & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1991. "Stock Market Forecastability and Volatility: A Statistical Appraisal," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(3), pages 455-477.
    2. Sanford J. Grossman, 1981. "An Introduction to the Theory of Rational Expectations Under Asymmetric Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(4), pages 541-559.
    3. Cochrane, John H, 1992. "Explaining the Variance of Price-Dividend Ratios," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 5(2), pages 243-280.
    4. Flood, Robert P & Hodrick, Robert J, 1990. "On Testing for Speculative Bubbles," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 85-101, Spring.
    5. Hamilton, James D. & Whiteman, Charles H., 1985. "The observable implications of self-fulfilling expectations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 353-373, November.
    6. Poterba, James M. & Summers, Lawrence H., 1988. "Mean reversion in stock prices : Evidence and Implications," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 27-59, October.
    7. Hansen, Lars Peter & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1982. "Generalized Instrumental Variables Estimation of Nonlinear Rational Expectations Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1269-1286, September.
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