Date: 09 Mar 2014

Long-run stock returns: evidence from Belgium 1838–2010

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We investigate monthly returns of Belgian stocks listed on the Brussels stock exchange in the period 1838–2010. Our dataset is based on official quotation lists of the stock exchange, and it takes into account all common stocks that were ever listed on the stock exchange during the period considered. This allows us to investigate the performance of the market as a whole in a consistent way over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We find that stock returns strongly depend on dividend income. While real capital appreciation tends to be negative, the dividend yield is remarkably stable over time. Stocks were less risky in the nineteenth century than in the twentieth century. While the equity premium is overall positive, the reward for equity risk is very volatile over time. Even in the long-run equity investors frequently earned a negative return. There are no consistent differences between returns on small stocks and large stocks.