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Equity prices, household wealth, and consumption growth in foreign industrial countries: wealth effects in the 1990s



Although most recent empirical research regarding the size and significance of the impact of changes in wealth on consumption has looked for such effects in the United States, equity prices in the 1990s rose considerably in most other industrial countries as well. This paper investigates the strength of the wealth effect across countries. Using a variety of methods, I find evidence of significant wealth effects in the United Kingdom and Canada of a size comparable to that in the United States, reflecting the importance of equities in aggregate household wealth in these countries. A significant wealth effect is also evident in Japan, but because household wealth has changed little on balance in Japan in recent years, this channel has been less important in explaining Japanese consumption growth in the second half of the 1990s. Despite a rapid appreciation in equity prices and an increase in equity ownership in the major continental European countries since 1995, equities remain a less important form of household wealth in most of these countries, and the consumption response to changes in wealth remains limited. However, in some smaller European countries where equity issuance is more common, the emerging evidence suggests that wealth effects may be more important.

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