Goyal and Welch (2006) argue that the historical average excess stock return forecasts future excess stock returns better than regressions of excess returns on predictor variables. In this paper we show that many predictive regressions beat the historical average return, once weak restrictions are imposed on the signs of coefficients and return forecasts. The out-of-sample explanatory power is small, but nonetheless is economically meaningful for mean-variance investors. Even better results can be obtained by imposing the restrictions of steady-state valuation models, thereby removing the need to estimate the average from a short sample of volatile stock returns. Towards the end of the last century, academic finance economists came to take seriously the view that aggregate stock returns are predictable. During the 1980’s a number of papers studied valuation ratios, such as the dividend-price ratio, earningsprice ratio, or smoothed earnings-price ratio. Value-oriented investors in the tradition of Graham and Dodd (1934) had always asserted that high valuation ratios are an indication of an undervalued stock market and should predict high subsequent returns, but these ideas did not carry much weight in the academic literature until authors such as Rozeff (1984), Fama and French (1988), and Campbell and Shiller (1988a,b) found that valuation ratios are positively correlated with subsequent returns and that the implied predictability of returns is substantial at longer horizons. Around the same time, several papers pointed out that yields on short- and long-term Treasury and corporate bonds are correlated with subsequent stock returns [Fama and Schwer
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