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ABSTRACT

Discount-rate variation is the central organizing question of current asset-pricing research. I survey facts, theories, and applications. Previously, we thought returns were unpredictable, with variation in price-dividend ratios due to variation in expected cashflows. Now it seems all price-dividend variation corresponds to discount-rate variation. We also thought that the cross-section of expected returns came from the CAPM. Now we have a zoo of new factors. I categorize discount-rate theories based on central ingredients and data sources. Incorporating discount-rate variation affects finance applications, including portfolio theory, accounting, cost of capital, capital structure, compensation, and macroeconomics.