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The Value of Government Debt

Aug 2019
Working Paper
19-024
By  John H. Cochrane

The market value of government debt equals the present discounted value of primary surpluses. Applying present value decompositions from asset pricing to this valuation equation, I find that half of the variation in the market value of debt to GDP ratio corresponds to varying forecasts of future primary surpluses, and half to varying discount rates. Variation in expected growth rates is unimportant.