Stock Market Efficiency and Economic Efficiency: Is There a Connection?




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    • Dow is from the European University Institute and is also affiliated with the London Business School. Gorton is from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and is a research associate at the NBER. We thank seminar participants at Princeton, UCLA, Boston College, Duke, Stanford, Northwestern, Temple, the CEPR Conference on Financial Intermediation, and London Business School for comments.


In a capitalist economy, prices serve to equilibrate supply and demand for goods and services, continually changing to reallocate resources to their most efficient uses. However, secondary stock market prices, often viewed as the most “informationally efficient” prices in the economy, have no direct role in the allocation of equity capital since managers have discretion in determining the level of investment. What is the link between stock price informational efficiency and economic efficiency? We present a model of the stock market in which: (i) managers have discretion in making investments and must be given the right incentives; and (ii) stock market traders may have important information that managers do not have about the value of prospective investment opportunities. In equilibrium, information in stock prices will guide investment decisions because managers will be compensated based on informative stock prices in the future. The stock market indirectly guides investment by transferring two kinds of information: information about investment opportunities and information about managers' past decisions. However, because this role is only indirect, the link between price efficiency and economic efficiency is tenuous. We show that stock price efficiency is not sufficient for economic efficiency by showing that the model may have another equilibrium in which prices are strong-form efficient, but investment decisions are suboptimal. We also suggest that stock market efficiency is not necessary for investment efficiency by considering a banking system that can serve as an alternative institution for the efficient allocation of investment resources.