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STEPHEN H. PENMAN
Columbia University - Department of Accounting
University of California, Berkeley - Accounting Group
Quality of earnings questions arise when firms that practice conservative accounting change the level of their investment in net operating assets: increases in net operating assets create "hidden reserves," depressing earnings, and decreases in investment release hidden reserves into earnings. This paper develops diagnostics that capture this joint effect of investment and conservative accounting and finds that the diagnostics forecast differences in future return on net operating assets from the current return on net operating assets. Moreover, the diagnostics forecast stock returns, indicating that the stock market does not appreciate how conservatism and investment combine to raise quality questions about reported earnings.
JEL Classifications: M41, G12, G14
Working Paper Series