Evidence of stock return predictability by financial ratios is still controversial, as documented by inconsistent results for in-sample and out-of-sample regressions and by substantial parameter instability. This paper shows that these seemingly incompatible results can be reconciled if the assumption of a fixed steady-state mean of the economy is relaxed. We find strong empirical evidence in support of shifts in the steady-state and propose simple methods to adjust financial ratios for such shifts. The in-sample forecasting relationship of adjusted price ratios and future returns is statistically significant and stable over time. In real time, however, changes in the steady-state make the in-sample return forecastability hard to exploit out-of-sample. The uncertainty of estimating the size of steady-state shifts rather than the estimation of their dates is responsible for the difficulty of forecasting stock returns in real time. Our conclusions hold for a variety of financial ratios and are robust to changes in the econometric technique used to estimate shifts in the steady-state.
The Review of Financial Studiesvol.
21, (July 01, 2008):