New Lessons from Market History: Sometimes Bonds Win
41 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2021
Date Written: March 24, 2021
When Jeremy Siegel published his Stocks for the Long Run thesis, little information was available on stocks before 1871 or bonds before 1926. But today, digital archives have made it possible to compute real total return on stock and bond indexes back to 1793. This paper presents that new market history and compares it to Siegel’s narrative. The new historical record shows that over multi-decade periods, sometimes stocks outperformed bonds, sometimes bonds outperformed stocks, and sometimes they performed about the same. More generally, the pattern of asset returns in the modern era, as seen in the Ibbotson SBBI and other datasets that begin in 1926, emerges as distinctly different from what came before. Contrary to Siegel, the pattern of asset returns seen in the 20th century does not generalize to the 19th century. A regime perspective is introduced to make sense of the augmented historical record. It argues that both common stocks and long bonds are risk assets, capable of outperforming or underperforming over any human time horizon.
Keywords: stock returns, bond returns,19th century financial markets, equity premium, asset allocation, portfolio management
JEL Classification: E32,G11,G12,N21
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