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The Value Spread



We decompose the cross-sectional variance of firms' book-to-market ratios using both a long U.S. panel and a shorter international panel. In contrast to typical aggregate time-series results, transitory cross-sectional variation in expected 15-year stock returns causes only a relatively small fraction (20 to 25 percent) of the total cross-sectional variance. The remaining dispersion can be explained by expected 15-year profitability and persistence of valuation levels. Furthermore, this fraction appears stable across time and across types of stocks. We also show that the expected return on value-minus-growth strategies is atypically high at times when their spread in book-to-market ratios is wide.

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