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Why Real Interest Rates, Cost of Capital and Price/Earnings Ratios Vary Across Countries


This paper examines how productivity changes affect real rates of return and price/earnings ratios in a small open economy. The model provides conditions under which increased productivity in a country’s traded goods sector causes prices of non-traded goods to increase relative to the price of traded goods. Under these conditions, real rates of interest decline and the production of certain non-traded durable goods (such as capital equipment and housing) immediately increase. This ‘overconstruction’ has two effects. First, the increase in capital relative to labor in these sectors increases the marginal product of labor and hence immediately causes an increase in wages and the prices of non-traded goods. Second, an ‘oversupply’ of capital goods and housing depresses their rental rates in the current period, thereby increasing their price to rental ratios or equivalently, their price/earnings ratios.

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