Economic Policy Review
How Important is the Stock Market Effect on Consumption?
July 1999 Volume 5, Number 2
JEL classification: E21, G10

Authors: Sydney Ludvigson and Charles Steindel

Many argue that the astonishing growth in Americans' stock portfolios in the 1990s has been a major force behind the growth of consumer spending. This article reviews the relationship between stock market movements and consumption. Using various econometric techniques and specifications, the authors find that the propensity to consume out of aggregate household wealth has exhibited instability over the postwar period. They also show that the dynamic response of consumption growth to an unexpected change in wealth is extremely short-lived, implying that forecasts of consumption growth one or more quarters ahead are not typically improved by accounting for changes in existing wealth. Finally, the impact effect of a wealth shock on consumption growth, while statistically positive, is found to be uncertain. Although recent market gains have provided support for consumer spending, the authors' findings are too limited to encourage reliance on estimates of the stock market effect in macroeconomic forecasts.

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