NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Understanding the Accrual Anomaly

Jin Ginger Wu, Lu Zhang, X. Frank Zhang

NBER Working Paper No. 13525
Issued in October 2007
NBER Program(s):   AP

Interpreting accruals as working capital investment, we hypothesize that firms rationally adjust their investment to respond to discount rate changes. Consistent with the optimal investment hypothesis, we document that (i) the predictive power of accruals for future stock returns increases with the covariations of accruals with past and current stock returns, and (ii) adding investment- based factors into standard factor regressions substantially reduces the magnitude of the accrual anomaly. High accrual firms also have similar corporate governance and entrenchment indexes as low accrual firms. This evidence suggests that the accrual anomaly is more likely to be driven by optimal investment than by investor overreaction to excessive growth or over-investment.

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This paper was revised on May 1, 2008

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13525

Published: WU, J., ZHANG, L. and ZHANG, X. F. (2010), The q-Theory Approach to Understanding the Accrual Anomaly. Journal of Accounting Research, 48: 177–223. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-679X.2009.00353.x

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