Stock Returns, Inflation, and Economic Activity: The Survey Evidence



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    • Graduate School of Business Administration, New York University. I am indebted to the Finance Workshop at New York University and to an anonymous referee for many helpful comments. All errors are my own responsibility.


The primary purpose of this paper is the use of survey expectations data to study the empirical relationships between stock returns, inflation, and economic activity. In the course of this analysis and as a secondary purpose, the paper discusses general considerations involving the use of expectations proxies and makes recommendations for econometric techniques. The main empirical findings are: (1) Hypothesized relationships between expected economic activity and expected inflation do not in practice appear to be important in explaining the negative relationship between expected inflation and stock returns. (2) Nevertheless, the survey data do lend some support to the hypothesis of a quantity theory relationship between expected inflation and expected economic activity, holding constant monetary growth. (3) The cross-forecaster dispersion of economic activity forecasts, a proxy for real uncertainty, appears to be a significant determinant of stock returns. Inclusion of this variable eliminates the negative impact of expected inflation.