What is an 'Equity Premium Puzzle - EPP'

A phenomenon that describes the anomalously higher historical real returns of stocks over government bonds. The equity premium, which is defined as equity returns minus bond returns, has been about 6% on average for the past century. It is supposed to reflect the relative risk of stocks compared to "risk-free" government bonds, but the puzzle arises because this unexpectedly large percentage implies a suspiciously high level of risk aversion among investors.

BREAKING DOWN 'Equity Premium Puzzle - EPP'

The equity premium puzzle is a mystery to financial academics. According to some academics, the difference is too large to reflect a "proper" level of compensation that would occur as a result of investor risk aversion; therefore, the premium should actually be much lower than the historic average of 6%.

More recent extensions to the puzzle attempt to offer a different rationale for explaining the EPP, such as investor prospects and macroeconomic influences. No matter the explanation, the fact remains that investors are being rewarded very well for holding equity compared to government bonds.

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