Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Working Paper Series

Rational and near-rational bubbles without drift

This paper derives a general class of intrinsic rational bubble solutions in a standard Lucas-type asset pricing model. I show that the rational bubble component of the price-dividend ratio can evolve as a geometric random walk without drift. The volatility of bubble innovations depends exclusively on fundamentals. Starting from an arbitrarily small positive value, the rational bubble expands and contracts over time in an irregular, wholly endogenous fashion, always returning to the vicinity of the fundamental solution. I also examine a near-rational solution in which the representative agent does not construct separate forecasts for the fundamental and bubble components of the asset price. Rather, the agent constructs only a single forecast for the total asset price that is based on a geometric random walk without drift. The agent's forecast rule is parameterized to match the moments of observable data. In equilibrium, the actual law of motion for the price-dividend ratio is stationary, highly persistent, and nonlinear. The agent's forecast errors exhibit near-zero autocorrelation at all lags, making it difficult for the agent to detect a misspecification of the forecast rule. Unlike a rational bubble, the near-rational solution allows the asset price to occasionally dip below its fundamental value. Under mild risk aversion, the near-rational solution generates pronounced low-frequency swings in the price-dividend ratio, positive skewness, excess kurtosis, and time-varying volatility--all of which are present in long-run U.S. stock market data. An independent contribution of the paper is to demonstrate an approximate analytical solution for the fundamental asset price that employs a nonlinear change of variables.

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Kevin J. Lansing, *Rational and near-rational bubbles without drift*, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Working Paper Series 2007-10, 2007.

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Keywords: Stock - Prices ; Forecasting

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