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Who is winning the earnings game?: A study about earnings management and subsequent stock returns in the U.S equities market.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE), Business Administration.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE), Business Administration.
2014 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The earnings game and myopic performance focus induce managers to use judgment and influence to alter the reported earnings. Earnings management is the umbrella term for such manipulative actions, by accruals management or real activates management. The implicit market reactions by the stock returns indicate the effect of EM and if the behaviors are opportunistic or informative for the stakeholders. Accounting variables explain less of the stock return variation and speculative short-term news drives the variation of stock return.

Research Question: Can earnings management indicators improve the forecasting of stock returns?

The main purpose of the study is to investigate whether EM can be utilized to forecast returns from improving the forecasting of earnings. The authors will include both AM and RAM measures to investigate the different inherent forecasting abilities, adding to the asset pricing research and valuation area. The authors aim to enhance the explanation of cross-sectional variation of stock returns from accounting variables. The authors aim to develop a model more specified to explain the future stock returns from the accounting relationships. An additional purpose is to include transactions with the firm (stock repurchases) to potentially increase the signaling value of the manipulation behaviors.

The theoretical framework consists of a discussion of theories and empirical findings regarding the accounting characteristic and relationship with stock returns. Earnings management is explained in-depth along with the empirical findings related to the concept. The capital market perspective is explained by the efficient market and behavioral finance. The chapter is concluded by concepts explaining the relationship and explanations for earnings management and the impact of information.

The sample consists of 3545 firms from NASDAQ and NYSE for the years 1992-2012, which equates to around 40 000 observations. We utilize 11 different EM indicators, constructed to capture abnormal components which indicate manipulative actions. The EM indicators’ association with future stock returns is tested by yearly and industry-yearly firm characteristics framework regressions. The firm characteristic framework is developed to control for firm characteristics and evaluate the standalone effect of EM. The result is expanded by investigating earnings persistence, correlations, robust regression and portfolio sorts.

The results suggest that total accruals, discretionary accruals, unexpected core earnings, production cost and stock returns are associated with subsequent stock returns. Abnormal SG&A expenses, Abnormal R&D expenses and abnormal cash flows from operations are not associated with stock returns. Earnings are downward manipulated prior and during stock repurchases. The change in ATO and PM diagnostic captures AM but not RAM. The concluding remarks are that EM indicators are associated with future stock returns and improve the forecasting of stock returns via a more accurate forecast of earnings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. , 99 p.
Keyword [en]
Real earnings management, accrual-based management, stock returns, accounting variables, stock repurchases, asset pricing, earnings management
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-90931OAI: diva2:732340
Available from: 2014-07-07 Created: 2014-07-03 Last updated: 2014-07-07Bibliographically approved

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