Earnings Momentum and Earnings Management
Posted: 9 Mar 2007
This paper provides evidence on firms that report long "strings" of consecutive increases in earnings per share (EPS). First, we find 746 firms that report earnings strings of at least 20 quarters since 1962, and show that this frequency is much larger than would be expected by chance. We interpret this as prima facie evidence of earnings management. Next, we document that these firms enjoy abnormal returns that average over 20 percent per year during the first five years of these strings, and these returns are larger than those of firms reporting at least five years of consecutive increases in annual (but not quarterly) EPS. We argue that these market premia, and the rapidity with which they disappear once the strings end, provide managers with incentives to maintain and extend the strings. Finally, we present several tests that document how managers of these firms use various earnings management tools to help their firms sustain and extend these strings.
Keywords: Earnings momentum, earnings management, accruals, management incentives
JEL Classification: M41, M43, G12, G30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation