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Keywords:

  • Stock returns;
  • Housing returns;
  • Inflation;
  • Inflation illusion;
  • Structural VAR

Abstract

The inflation illusion hypothesis of Modigliani and Cohn (1979) has received renewed attention in explaining a negative relation not only between stock returns and inflation but also between housing returns and inflation. We reexamine the empirical relation in general and the validity of the inflation illusion hypothesis in particular using data from the US, the UK and Korea. We find three key results. (1) The negative relation is particularly strong in recession periods, indicating that the relation is sensitive to business cycles. (2) There are two regimes with positive and negative asset returns and inflation relations for all three countries, and the two-regime relation is found not only for the stock return–inflation relation but also for the housing return–inflation relation. This finding is at odds with the inflation illusion hypothesis because the hypothesis anticipates only a negative relation for both positive inflation and negative inflation. (3) Housing returns Granger-cause inflation, and their dynamic net effect on inflation is significantly positive for all three countries. This is at odds with the inflation illusion hypothesis, which anticipates inflation being related to negative returns. Overall, we find limited evidence for the inflation illusion hypothesis. If there is inflation illusion, only a small fraction of investors suffer from it.