In my last post, I looked at country risk first from both a bondholder perspective (with ratings, default spreads and CDS spreads) as well as an equity investor perspective (with my estimates of equity risk premiums by country). While default spreads in sovereign bonds and differences in CDS spreads are explicit and visible to investors, the question of whether equity markets price in differences in equity risk premiums is debatable. In fact, there are quite a few analysts (and academics) who argue that country risk is diversifiable to global investors and hence should not be priced into stocks, though that argument has been undercut by the increasing correlation across equity markets. In this post, I look at the pricing of stocks across different markets to see if there is evidence of differences in country risk, and if so, whether market views of risk have changed over time.

Stock Prices and Risk Premiums

Holding all else constant, stocks that are perceived as riskier should sell for lower prices. That can be illustrated fairly simply using a basic discounted cash flow model. Consider a firm that pays out what it can afford to in dividends and is in stable growth (growing at a rate less than or equal to the economy forever). The value of equity in the firm can be written as:

Rewriting the expected dividends next period as the product of the payout ratio and expected earnings, we get:

Now, assume that you are valuing two companies with equivalent growth rates and payout ratios, in US dollars, and that the only difference is that one company is in a developed market and the other is in an emerging market. If investors in the emerging market are demanding a higher equity risk premium, the emerging market company should trade at a lower PE ratio than the developed market company.

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