Disappearing Investment-Cash Flow Sensitivities: Earnings Have Not Become a Worse Proxy for Cash Flow
33 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2016 Last revised: 16 Jan 2017
Date Written: December 12, 2016
According to a recent conjecture in the literature, earnings have become a poorer proxy for cash flow from operations over time. We find that since 1988, when cash flow statements started to be consistently reported in Compustat, the cash effectiveness of earnings has actually increased for a large sample of US manufacturing firms. This occurs despite the introduction of fair value accounting and increasing accounting accruals during the last three decades. The evidence suggests that this puzzle is explained by more efficient working capital management. Also contrary to the conjecture, using more comprehensive measures of cash flow does not restore the investment-cash flow sensitivity, which continues to be around 0.05 in more recent periods. We end by noting that the investment model used in the literature can be enhanced by including accruals, since it leads to a more precise estimation of cash flow.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation