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The Accrual Anomaly: Exploring The Optimal Investment Hypothesis

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Executive Summary

Interpreting accruals as working capital investment, the authors hypothesize that firms rationally adjust their investment to respond to discount rate changes. Consistent with the optimal investment hypothesis, they document that the predictive power of accruals for future stock returns increases with the covariations of accruals with past and current stock returns, and 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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