Aggregate Financial Misreporting and the Predictability of U.S. Recessions
60 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2021
Date Written: February 23, 2021
We rely on the theoretical prediction that financial misreporting peaks before economic busts to examine whether aggregate ex ante measures of the likelihood of financial misreporting improve the predictability of U.S. recessions. We consider six measures of misreporting and show that the Beneish M-Score significantly improves out-of-sample recession prediction at longer forecasting horizons. Specifically, relative to leading models based on yield spreads and market returns, M-Score increases the average probability of a recession across forecast horizons of six-, seven-, and eight-quarters-ahead by 56 percent, 79 percent, and 92 percent, respectively. These findings are robust to alternative definitions of interest rate spreads, and to controlling for the federal funds rate, investor sentiment, and aggregate earnings growth. We show that the performance of M-Score likely arises because firms with high M-Scores tend to experience negative future performance. Overall, this study provides novel evidence that accounting information can be useful to forecasters and regulators interested in assessing the likelihood of U.S. recessions a few quarters ahead.
Keywords: Recessions, Prediction, Financial Misreporting
JEL Classification: M41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation