The Nominal Price Puzzle
58 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2006
Date Written: March 2007
Nominal prices of common stocks have remained constant at around $30 per share since the Great Depression as a result of firms splitting their stocks. It is surprising that firms actively maintained constant nominal price for their shares while general prices in the economy went up more than ten fold. This is especially puzzling given that commissions paid by investors on trading ten $30 shares are about ten times those paid on a single $300 share. We estimate, for example, that had share prices of General Electric kept up with inflation, investors in that stock would have saved $100 million in commissions in 2005. We review potential explanations, including signaling and optimal trading range and find that none of the existing theories are able to explain the observed constant nominal prices. We suggest that the evidence is consistent with the idea that Norms (e.g. Akerlof, 2006) can explain the nominal price puzzle.
Keywords: nominal prices, stock splits, norms
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