The Rate of Return on Everything, 1870 – 2015
(with Òscar Jordà, Katharina Knoll, Moritz Schularick, and Alan M. Taylor)
Conditionally Accepted at the Quarterly Journal of Economics
What is the aggregate real rate of return in the economy? Is it higher than the growth rate of the economy and, if so, by how much? Is there a tendency for returns to fall in the long-run? Which particular assets have the highest long-run returns? We answer these questions on the basis of a new and comprehensive dataset for all major asset classes, including housing. The annual data on total returns for equity, housing, bonds, and bills cover 16 advanced economies from 1870 to 2015, and our new evidence reveals many new findings and puzzles.
Media coverage: Economist, Financial Times, FT Alphaville, Bloomberg View, Quartz, Washington Post, FAZ
The Big Bang: Stock Market Capitalization in the Long Run
(with Kaspar Zimmermann)
This paper presents new annual long-run stock market capitalization data for 17 advanced economies. Extending our knowledge beyond individual benchmark years in the seminal work of Rajan and Zingales (2003) reveals a striking new time series pattern: over the long run, the evolution of stock market size resembles a hockey stick. The stock market cap to GDP ratio was stable between 1870 and 1980, tripled in the 1980s and 1990s and remains high to this day. This trend is common across countries and mirrors increases in other financial and price indicators, but happens at a much faster pace. We term this sudden structural shift “the big bang” and use novel data on equity returns, prices and cashflows to explore its underlying drivers. Our first key finding is that the big bang is driven almost entirely by rising equity prices, rather than quantities. Net equity issuance is sizeable but relatively constant over time, and plays very little role in the short, medium and long run swings in stock market cap. Second, much of this price increase cannot be explained by more favourable fundamentals such as profits and taxes. Rather, it is driven by lower equity risk premia. Third, consistent with this risk premium view of stock market size, the market cap to GDP ratio is a reliable indicator of booms and busts in the equity market. High stock market capitalization – the “Buffet indicator” – forecasts low subsequent equity returns, and low – rather than high – cashflow growth, outperforming standard predictors such as the dividend-price ratio.
Sovereigns Going Bust: Estimating the Cost of Default
(with Kaspar Zimmermann)
R & R at the European Economic Review
What is the cost of sovereign default, and what makes default costly? This paper uses a novel econometric method – combining local projections and propensity score weighting as in Jordà and Taylor (2016) – to study these questions. We find that default generates a long-lasting output cost – 2.7% of GDP on impact and 3.7% at peak after five years – but in the longer term, economic activity recovers. The downturn is characterised by a collapse in investment and gross trade. The cost rises dramatically if the default is followed by a systemic banking crisis, peaking at 9.5% of GDP. Our findings suggest that financial autarky and sovereign-banking spillovers play a key role in generating the cost of default.