# Advanced Macroeconomics 5. Rational Expectations and Asset Prices

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1 Advanced Macroeconomics 5. Rational Expectations and Asset Prices Karl Whelan School of Economics, UCD Spring 2015 Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

2 A New Topic We are now going to switch gear and leave the IS-MP-PC model behind us. One of the things we ve focused on is how people formulate expectations about inflation. We put forward one model of how these expectations were formulated, an adaptive expectations model in which people formulated their expectations by looking at past values for a series. Over the next few weeks, we will look at an alternative approach that macroeconomists call rational expectations. This approach is widely used in macroeconomics and we will cover its application to models of Asset prices, particularly stock prices. Household consumption and fiscal policy. Exchange rates Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

3 Rational Expectations Almost all economic transactions rely crucially on the fact that the economy is not a one-period game. Economic decisions have an intertemporal element to them. A key issue in macroeconomics is how people formulate expectations about the in the presence of uncertainty. Prior to the 1970s, this aspect of macro theory was largely ad hoc relying on approaches like adaptive expectations. This approach criticised in the 1970s by economists such as Robert Lucas and Thomas Sargent who instead promoted the use of an alternative approach which they called rational expectations. In economics, saying people have rational expectations usually means two things: 1 They use publicly available information in an efficient manner. Thus, they do not make systematic mistakes when formulating expectations. 2 They understand the structure of the model economy and base their expectations of variables on this knowledge. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

4 How We Will Describe Expectations We will write E t Z t+2 to mean the expected value the agents in the economy have at time t for what Z is going to be at time t + 2. We assume people have a distribution of potential outcomes for Z t+2 and E t Z t+2 is mean of this distribution. So E t is not a number that is multiplying Z t+2. Instead, it is a qualifier explaining that we are dealing with people s prior expectations of a Z t+2 rather than the actual realised value of Z t+2 itself. We will use some basic properties of the expected value of distributions. Specifically, the fact that expected values of distributions is what is known as a linear operator meaning E t (αx t+k + βy t+k ) = αe t X t+k + βe t Y t+k For example, And E t (5X t+k ) = 5E t (X t+k ) E t (X t+k + Y t+k ) = E t X t+k + E t Y t+k Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

5 Example: Asset Prices Asset prices are an increasingly important topic in macroeconomics. The most recent two global recessions the dot com recession of 2000/01 and the great recession of 2008/09 were triggered by big declines in asset prices following earlier large increases. A framework for discussing these movements is thus a necessary part of any training in macroeconomics. Consider an asset that can be purchased today for price P t and which yields a dividend of D t. The asset could be a share of equity in a firm with D t being the dividend payment but it could also be a house and D t could be the net return from renting this house out If this asset is sold tomorrow for price P t+1, then it generates a rate of return on this investment of r t+1 = D t + P t+1 P t This rate of return has two components, the first reflects the dividend received during the period the asset was held, and the second reflects the capital gain (or loss) due to the price of the asset changing from period t to period t + 1. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

6 A Different Form for the Rate of Return Equation The gross return on the asset, i.e. one plus the rate of return, is t+1 = D t + P t+1 P t A useful re-arrangement of this equation that we will work with is: P t = D t t+1 + P t+1 t+1 In this context, rational expectations means investors understand this equation and that all expectations of future variables must be consistent with it. This implies that [ D t E t P t = E t + P ] t+1 t+1 t+1 where E t means the expectation of a variable formulated at time t. The stock price at time t is observable to the agent so E t P t = P t, implying [ D t P t = E t + P ] t+1 t+1 t+1 Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

7 Constant Expected Returns Assume the expected return on assets is constant. E t r t+k = r k = 1, 2, 3,... Can think of this as a required return, determined perhaps the rate of return available on some other asset. Last equation on the previous slide becomes P t = D t + E tp t+1 This is an example of a first-order stochastic difference equation. Stochastic means random or incorporating uncertainty. Because such equations occur commonly in macroeconomics, we will discuss a general approach to solving them. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

8 First-Order Stochastic Difference Equations Lots of models in economics take the form y t = ax t + be t y t+1 The equation just says that y today is determined by x and by tomorrow s expected value of y. But what determines this expected value? Rational expectations implies a very specific answer. Under rational expectations, the agents in the economy understand the equation and formulate their expectation in a way that is consistent with it: This last term can be simplified to because E t E t+1 y t+2 = E t y t+2. E t y t+1 = ae t x t+1 + be t E t+1 y t+2 E t y t+1 = ae t x t+1 + be t y t+2 This is known as the Law of Iterated Expectations: It is not rational for me to expect to have a different expectation next period for y t+2 than the one that I have today. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

9 Repeated Substitution Substituting this into the previous equation, we get y t = ax t + abe t x t+1 + b 2 E t y t+2 Repeating this by substituting for E t y t+2, and then E t y t+3 and so on gives y t = ax t + abe t x t+1 + ab 2 E t x t ab N 1 E t x t+n 1 + b N E t y t+n Which can be written in more compact form as Usually, it is assumed that So the solution is N 1 y t = a b k E t x t+k + b N E t y t+n lim N bn E t y t+n = 0 y t = a b k E t x t+k This solution underlies the logic of a very large amount of modern macroeconomics. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

10 Repeated Substitution Substituting this into the previous equation, we get y t = ax t + abe t x t+1 + b 2 E t y t+2 Repeating this by substituting for E t y t+2, and then E t y t+3 and so on gives y t = ax t + abe t x t+1 + ab 2 E t x t ab N 1 E t x t+n 1 + b N E t y t+n Which can be written in more compact form as Usually, it is assumed that So the solution is N 1 y t = a b k E t x t+k + b N E t y t+n lim N bn E t y t+n = 0 y t = a b k E t x t+k This solution underlies the logic of a very large amount of modern macroeconomics. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

11 Repeated Substitution Substituting this into the previous equation, we get y t = ax t + abe t x t+1 + b 2 E t y t+2 Repeating this by substituting for E t y t+2, and then E t y t+3 and so on gives y t = ax t + abe t x t+1 + ab 2 E t x t ab N 1 E t x t+n 1 + b N E t y t+n Which can be written in more compact form as Usually, it is assumed that So the solution is N 1 y t = a b k E t x t+k + b N E t y t+n lim N bn E t y t+n = 0 y t = a b k E t x t+k This solution underlies the logic of a very large amount of modern macroeconomics. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

12 Repeated Substitution Substituting this into the previous equation, we get y t = ax t + abe t x t+1 + b 2 E t y t+2 Repeating this by substituting for E t y t+2, and then E t y t+3 and so on gives y t = ax t + abe t x t+1 + ab 2 E t x t ab N 1 E t x t+n 1 + b N E t y t+n Which can be written in more compact form as Usually, it is assumed that So the solution is N 1 y t = a b k E t x t+k + b N E t y t+n lim N bn E t y t+n = 0 y t = a b k E t x t+k This solution underlies the logic of a very large amount of modern macroeconomics. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

13 Summation Signs For those of you unfamiliar with the summation sign terminology, summation signs work like this and so on. The term 2 z k = z 0 + z 1 + z 2 3 z k = z 0 + z 1 + z 2 + z 3 b k E t x t+k is just a compact way of writing x t + be t x t+1 + b 2 E t x t Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

14 Applying Solution to Asset Prices Our asset price equation P t = D t + E tp t+1 is a specific case of the first-order stochastic difference equation with y t = P t x t = D t a = 1 b = 1 This implies that the asset price can be expressed as follows N 1 ( ) k+1 ( ) N 1 1 P t = E t D t+k + E t P t+n Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

15 The Dividend Discount Model Solution is N 1 ( ) k+1 ( ) N 1 1 P t = E t D t+k + E t P t+n Usually assume the final term tends to zero as N gets big: ( ) N 1 lim E t P t+n = 0 N What is the logic behind this assumption? One explanation is that if it did not hold then we could set all future values of D t equal to zero, and the asset price would still be positive. But an asset that never pays out should be inherently worthless, so this condition rules this possibility out. With this imposed, our solution becomes ( ) k+1 1 P t = E t D t+k This equation is known as the dividend-discount model. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

16 Explaining the Solution Without Equations Suppose I told you that the right way to price a stock was as follows. Today s stock price should equal today s dividend plus half of tomorrow s expected stock price. Now suppose it s Monday. Then that means the right formula should be Monday s stock price should equal Monday s dividend plus half of Tuesday s expected stock price. It also means the following applies to Tuesday s stock price Tuesday s stock price should equal Tuesday s dividend plus half of Wednesday s expected stock price. If people had rational expectations, then Monday s stock prices would equal Monday s dividend plus half of Tuesday s expected dividend plus one-quarter of Wednesday s expected stock price Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

17 Explaining the Solution Without Equations Now, being consistent about it factoring in what Wednesday s stock price should be you d get the price being equal to Monday s dividend plus half of Tuesday s expected dividend plus one-quarter of Wednesday s expected dividend plus one-eigth of Thursday s expected dividend and so on. This is the idea being captured when we write P t = ( ) k+1 1 E t D t+k Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

18 Constant Dividend Growth A useful special case that is to assume dividends are expected grow at a constant rate E t D t+k = (1 + g) k D t In this case, the dividend-discount model predicts that the stock price should be given by P t = D ( ) k t 1 + g Now, remember the old multiplier formula, which states that as long as 0 < c < 1, then 1 + c + c 2 + c = c k = 1 1 c This geometric series formula gets used a lot in modern macroeconomics, not just in examples involving the multiplier. Here we can use it as long as 1+g 1+r < 1, i.e. as long as r (the expected return on the stock market) is greater than g (the growth rate of dividends). Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

19 Constant Dividend Growth A useful special case that is to assume dividends are expected grow at a constant rate E t D t+k = (1 + g) k D t In this case, the dividend-discount model predicts that the stock price should be given by P t = D ( ) k t 1 + g Now, remember the old multiplier formula, which states that as long as 0 < c < 1, then 1 + c + c 2 + c = c k = 1 1 c This geometric series formula gets used a lot in modern macroeconomics, not just in examples involving the multiplier. Here we can use it as long as 1+g 1+r < 1, i.e. as long as r (the expected return on the stock market) is greater than g (the growth rate of dividends). Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

20 The Gordon Growth Formula Assuming r > g, then we have P t = = = D t D t D t r g g 1+r (1 + g) Prices are a multiple of current dividend payments, where that multiple depends positively on the expected future growth rate of dividends and negatively on the expected future rate of return on stocks. This means that the dividend-price ratios is D t P t = r g Often called the Gordon growth model, after the economist that popularized it and often used as a benchmark for assessing whether an asset is above or below the fair value implied by rational expectations. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

21 Trends and Cycles An alternative assumption: Suppose dividends fluctuate around a steady-growth trend. An example this is D t = c(1 + g) t + u t u t = ρu t 1 + ɛ t These equations state that dividends are the sum of two processes: The first grows at rate g each period. The second, u t, measures a cyclical component of dividends, and this follows an AR(1) process. Here ɛ t is a zero-mean random shock term. Over large samples, we would expect u t to have an average value of zero, but deviations from zero will be more persistent the higher is the value of the parameter ρ. We will now derive the dividend-discount model s predictions for stock prices when dividends follow this process. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

22 Trends Component The model predicts that P t = ( ) k+1 1 ( E t c(1 + g) t+k ) + u t+k Let s split this sum into two. First the trend component, ( ) k+1 1 ( E t c(1 + g) t+k ) = = = = c(1 + g)t c(1 + g)t c(1 + g)t c(1 + g)t r g g 1+r ( ) k 1 + g (1 + g) Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

23 Trends Component The model predicts that P t = ( ) k+1 1 ( E t c(1 + g) t+k ) + u t+k Let s split this sum into two. First the trend component, ( ) k+1 1 ( E t c(1 + g) t+k ) = = = = c(1 + g)t c(1 + g)t c(1 + g)t c(1 + g)t r g g 1+r ( ) k 1 + g (1 + g) Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

24 Trends Component The model predicts that P t = ( ) k+1 1 ( E t c(1 + g) t+k ) + u t+k Let s split this sum into two. First the trend component, ( ) k+1 1 ( E t c(1 + g) t+k ) = = = = c(1 + g)t c(1 + g)t c(1 + g)t c(1 + g)t r g g 1+r ( ) k 1 + g (1 + g) Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

25 Cyclical Component Next, the cyclical component. Because E(ɛ t+k ) = 0, we have E t u t+1 = E t (ρu t + ɛ t+1 ) = ρu t E t u t+2 = E t (ρu t+1 + ɛ t+2 ) = ρ 2 u t E t u t+k = E t (ρu t+k 1 + ɛ t+k ) = ρ k u t So, this second sum can be written as ( ) k+1 1 E t u t+k = = = = u t u t u t 1 1 ρ 1+r u t ρ ( ρ ) k ρ Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

26 Cyclical Component Next, the cyclical component. Because E(ɛ t+k ) = 0, we have E t u t+1 = E t (ρu t + ɛ t+1 ) = ρu t E t u t+2 = E t (ρu t+1 + ɛ t+2 ) = ρ 2 u t E t u t+k = E t (ρu t+k 1 + ɛ t+k ) = ρ k u t So, this second sum can be written as ( ) k+1 1 E t u t+k = = = = u t u t u t 1 1 ρ 1+r u t ρ ( ρ ) k ρ Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

27 Cyclical Component Next, the cyclical component. Because E(ɛ t+k ) = 0, we have E t u t+1 = E t (ρu t + ɛ t+1 ) = ρu t E t u t+2 = E t (ρu t+1 + ɛ t+2 ) = ρ 2 u t E t u t+k = E t (ρu t+k 1 + ɛ t+k ) = ρ k u t So, this second sum can be written as ( ) k+1 1 E t u t+k = = = = u t u t u t 1 1 ρ 1+r u t ρ ( ρ ) k ρ Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

28 The Full Solution Putting these two sums together, the stock price at time t is P t = c(1 + g)t r g + u t ρ Stock prices don t just grow at a constant rate. Instead they depend positively on the cyclical component of dividends, u t, and the more persistent are these cyclical deviations (the higher ρ is), the larger is their effect on stock prices. Concrete examples, suppose r = 0.1. When ρ = 0.9 the coefficient on u t is 1 1+r ρ = = 5 but if ρ = 0.6, then the coefficient falls to 1 1+r ρ = = 2 When taking averages over long periods of time, the u components of dividends and prices will average to zero. This is why the Gordon formula is normally seen as a guide to long-run average valuations rather than a prediction as to what the market should be right now. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

29 Changes in Stock Prices The model has important predictions for changes in stock prices. It predicts [ ( ) ( ) 2 ( ) P t+1 P t = D t+1 + E t+1d t+2 + E t+1d t ] [ ( ) ( ) 2 ( ) D t + E td t+1 + E td t ] This can be re-written as P t+1 P t = ( 1 [ ( 1 + [ ( 1 + ) [ ( 1 D t + ) 2 ( 1 E t+1d t+2 ) ( 1 D t+1 ) 3 E td t+2] + ) 2 E td t+1] ) 3 ( ) 4 1 E t+1d t+3 E td t+3] +... Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

30 What Drives Changes in Stock Prices? Change in stock prices is ( 1 P t+1 P t = [ ( 1 + [ ( 1 + ) [ ( 1 D t + ) 2 ( 1 E t+1d t+2 ) ( 1 D t+1 ) 3 E td t+2] + ) 2 E td t+1] ) 3 ( ) 4 1 E t+1d t+3 E td t+3] +... Three reasons why prices change from period P t to period P t+1. P t+1 differs from P t because it does not take into account D t this dividend has been paid now and has no influence any longer on the price at time t + 1. P t+1 applies a smaller discount rate to future dividends because have moved ( ) ( ) forward one period in time, e.g. it discounts D t+1 by 1+r instead of 1+r People formulate new expectations for the future path of dividends e.g. E t D t+2 is gone and has been replaced by E t+1 D t+2 Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

31 Unpredictability of Stock Returns In the notes, we shows that the equation on the previous slide can be re-written as ( k=1 r t+1 = D t + P t+1 P t = r r ) k (Et+1 D t+k E t D t+k ) The rate of return on stocks depends on how people change their minds about what they expect to happen to dividends in the future. If we assume that people formulate rational expectations, then the return on stocks should be unpredictable. Research in the 1960s and 1970s by Eugene Fama and co-authors found that stock returns did seem to be essentially unpredictable. This was considered a victory for the rational expectations approach and many people believed that financial markets were efficient meaning they priced on the basis of all relevant information. P t Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

32 A Problem: Excess Volatility In an important 1981 paper, Robert Shiller argued that the dividend-discount model cannot explain the volatility of stock prices. Shiller s argument began by observing that the ex post outcome for a variable can be expressed as: X t = E t 1 X t + ɛ t This means that the variance of X t can be described by Var (X t ) = Var (E t 1 X t ) + Var (ɛ t ) + 2Cov (E t 1 X t, ɛ t ) This covariance term between the surprise element ɛ t and the ex-ante expectation E t 1 X t should equal zero if expectations are rational. If there was a correlation for instance, so that a low value of the expectation tended to imply a high value for the error and then you could systematically construct a better forecast. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

33 Variance Bounds for Stock Prices So, if expectations are rational, then we have Var (X t ) = Var (E t 1 X t ) + Var (ɛ t ) Provided there is some unpredictability, then the variance of the ex post outcome should be higher than the variance of ex ante rational expectation Var (X t ) > Var (E t 1 X t ) Stock prices are an ex ante expectation of a discount sum of future dividends. Shiller s observation was that rational expectations should imply [ ( ) k+1 1 Var(P t ) < Var D t+k] A check on this calculation, using a wide range of possible values for r, reveals that this inequality does not hold: Stocks are actually much more volatile than suggested by realized movements in dividends. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

34 Shiller s 1981 Chart Illustrating Excess Volatility Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

35 Long-Horizon Predictability The model predicts that when the ratio of dividends to prices is low, investors are confident about future dividend growth. So a low dividend-price ratio should help to predict higher future dividend growth. Shiller s volatility research pointed out, however, that there appears to be a lot of movements in stock prices that never turn out to be fully justified by later changes dividends. Later research went a good bit further. For example, Campbell and Shiller (2001) show that over longer periods, dividend-price ratios are of essentially no use at all in forecasting future dividend growth. In fact, a high ratio of prices to dividends, instead of forecasting high growth in dividends, tends to forecast lower future returns on the stock market alebit with a relatively low R-squared. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

36 Campbell and Shiller s 2001 Chart Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

37 Reconciling the Various Findings This last finding seems to contradict Fama s earlier conclusions that it was difficult to forecast stock returns but these results turn out to be compatible with both those findings and the volatility results. Fama s classic results on predictability focused on explaining short-run stock returns e.g. can we use data from this year to forecast next month s stock returns? But the form of predictability found by Campbell and Shiller (and other studies) related to predicting average returns over multiple years. It turns out an inability to find short-run predictability is not the same thing as an inability to find longer-run predictability. To understand this, we need to develop some ideas about forecasting time series. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

38 Forecasting Short-Term Changes in Time Series Consider a series that follows the following AR(1) time series process: y t = ρy t 1 + ɛ t where ɛ t is a random and unpredictable noise process with a zero mean. If ρ = 1 then the change in the series is so the changes cannot be predicted. y t y t 1 = ɛ t Suppose, however, ρ = The change in the series is now y t y t 1 = 0.01y t 1 + ɛ t Now suppose you wanted to assess whether you could forecast the change in the series based on last period s value of the series. The true coefficient in this relationship is with the ɛ t being the random error. This is so close to zero that you will probably be unable to reject that the true coefficient is zero. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

39 Forecasting Long-Term Changes in Time Series What if you were looking at forecasting longer-term changes? Another repeated substitution trick. y t = ρy t 1 + ɛ t = ρ 2 y t 2 + ɛ t + ρɛ t 1 = ρ 3 y t 3 + ɛ t + ρɛ t 1 + ρ 2 ɛ t 2 N 1 = ρ N y t N + ρ k ɛ t k Now try to forecast change in y t over N periods: y t y t N = ( ρ N 1 ) N 1 y t N + ρ k ɛ t k If ρ = 0.99 and N = 50 the coefficient is ( ) = 0.4. So regressions predicting returns over longer periods find statistically significant evidence even though this evidence cannot be found for predicting returns over shorter periods. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

40 Results from a Simple Simulation Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

41 A Model to Explain the Findings? Pulling these ideas together to explain the various stock price results, suppose prices were given by [ ( ) k+1 1 P t = E t D t+k] + u t where u t = ρu t 1 + ɛ t with ρ being close to one and ɛ t being an unpredictable noise series. In this case, statistical research would generate three results: 1 Short-term stock returns would be very hard to forecast. This is partly because of the rational dividend-discount element but also because changes in the non-fundamental element are hard to forecast over short-horizons. 2 Longer-term stock returns would have a statistically significant forecastable element, though with a relatively low R-squared. 3 Stock prices would be more volatile than predicted by the dividend-discount model, perhaps significantly. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

42 Example: Are U.S. Stock Prices Over-Valued? Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

43 S&P 500 Dividend-Price Ratio Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

44 Dividend-Price and Earnings-Price Ratios Earnings/Price Dividends/Price Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

45 Real 10-Year Treasury Bond Rate Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

46 Incorporating Time-Varying Expected Returns Perhaps the problem with the model is its assumption that expected returns are constant. Can re-formulate the model with expected returns varying over time. Define R t = t Start again from the first-order difference equation for stock prices This implies P t = D t R t+1 + P t+1 R t+1 P t+1 = D t+1 R t+2 + P t+2 R t+2 Substitute this into the original price equation to get P t = = D t R t R t+1 ( Dt+1 + P ) t+2 R t+2 R t+2 D t R t+1 + D t+1 R t+1 R t+2 + P t+2 R t+1 R t+2 Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

47 Solution with Time-Varying Expected Returns Applying the same trick to substitute for P t+2 we get P t = D t + D t+1 D t+2 P t R t+1 R t+1 R t+2 R t+1 R t+2 R t+3 R t+1 R t+2 R t+3 The general formula is where h n=1 N 1 P t = D t+k k+1 R t+m m=1 + x i means the product of x 1, x 2... x h. N P t+n R t+m m=1 Setting final term to term to zero as N and taking expectations P t = E t D t+k k+1 R t+m m=1 Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

48 Solution with Time-Varying Expected Returns Applying the same trick to substitute for P t+2 we get P t = D t + D t+1 D t+2 P t R t+1 R t+1 R t+2 R t+1 R t+2 R t+3 R t+1 R t+2 R t+3 The general formula is where h n=1 N 1 P t = D t+k k+1 R t+m m=1 + x i means the product of x 1, x 2... x h. N P t+n R t+m m=1 Setting final term to term to zero as N and taking expectations P t = E t D t+k k+1 R t+m m=1 Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

49 Time-Varying Expected Returns as an Explanation? This approach gives one potential explanation for the failure of news about dividends to explain stock price fluctuations perhaps it is news about future stock returns that explains movements in stock prices. One way to think about expected returns on stocks is to break them into the return on low risk bonds and the premium for holding risky assets E t r t+1 = E t i t+1 + π In other words, next period s expected return on the market needs to equal next period s expected interest rate on bonds, i t+1, plus a risk premium, π, which we will assume is constant. Perhaps surprisingly, research has generally found that accounting for fluctuations in interest rates does little to explain movements in stock prices or resolve the various puzzles that have been documented. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

50 Time-Varying Risk Premia? A final possibility is that that changes in expected returns do account for the bulk of stock market movements, but that the principal source of these changes comes, not from interest rates, but from changes in the risk premium that determines the excess return that stocks must generate relative to bonds (the π t above). In favour of this conclusion: Market commentary often discusses fluctuations in prices of stocks and other financial products in terms of investors having a risk on or risk off attitude. A problem with this conclusion is that it implies that, most of the time, when stocks are increasing it is because investors are anticipating lower stock returns at a later date. However, the evidence points in the other direction. For example, surveys have shown that even at the peak of the most recent bull market, average investors still anticipate high future returns on the market. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

51 Behavioural Finance The last possibility is that people to act in a manner inconsistent with pure rational expectations. Indeed, inability to explain aggregate stock prices is not the only failure of modern financial economics, e.g. failure to explain why the average return on stocks exceeds that on bonds by so much, or discrepancies in the long-run performance of small- and large-capitalisation stocks. For many, the answers to these questions lie in abandoning the pure rational expectations, optimising approach. Behavioural finance is booming, with various researchers proposing all sorts of different non-optimising models of what determines asset prices. But there is no clear front-runner alternative behavioural-finance model of the determination of aggregate stock prices. And don t underestimate the rational expectations model as a benchmark. Asset prices probably eventually return towards the fundamental level implied by rational expectations. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

52 Things to Understand From This Topic 1 The meaning of rational expectations, as used by economists. 2 The repeated substitution method for solving first-order stochastic difference equations. 3 How to derive the dividend-discount formula. 4 How to derive the Gordon growth formula and the variant with cyclical dividends. 5 The dividend-discount model s predictions on predictability. 6 Fama s evidence and the meaning of efficient markerts. 7 The logic behind Robert Shiller s test of the dividend-discount model and his findings. 8 How the dividend-price ratio forecasts longer-horizon stock returns. 9 Why stock returns may be predictable over long horizons but not a short. 10 How to incorporate time-varying expected returns, interest rates and risk premia. 11 The state of debate about rational expectations and asset pricing. Karl Whelan (UCD) Asset Prices Spring / 43

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