Horizon-Dependent Underreaction in Financial Analysts' Earnings Forecasts
33 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2003 Last revised: 20 Sep 2012
Date Written: November 7, 2005
This paper provides empirical evidence that underreaction in financial analysts' earnings forecasts increases with the forecast horizon, and the paper offers a rational economic explanation for this result. The empirical portion of the paper evaluates analysts' responses to earnings-surprise and other earnings-related information. Our empirical evidence suggests that analysts' earnings forecasts underreact to both types of information, and the underreaction increases with the forecast horizon. The paper also develops a theoretical model that explains this horizon-dependent analyst underreaction as a rational response to an asymmetric loss function. The model assumes that, for a given level of inaccuracy, analysts' reputations suffer more (less) when subsequent information causes a revision in investor expectations in the opposite (same) direction as the analyst's prior earnings forecast revision. Given this asymmetric loss function, underreaction increases with the risk of subsequent disconfirming information and with the disproportionate cost associated with revision reversal. Assuming that market frictions prevent prices from immediately unraveling these analyst underreaction tactics, investors buying (selling) stock based on analysts' positive (negative) earnings forecast revisions also benefit from analyst underreaction. Therefore, the asymmetric cost of forecast inaccuracy could arise from rational investor incentives consistent with a preference for analyst underreaction. Our incentives-based explanation for underreaction provides an alternative to psychology-based explanations and suggests avenues for further research.
Note: Previously titled "Horizon-Dependent Conservatism Bias in Financial Analysts' Earnings Forecasts"
Keywords: Earnings forecasts, security analysts, underreaction, forecast rationality
JEL Classification: M41, G14, G29
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation