ABSTRACT The within-year walkdown of analysts' earnings forecasts has largely been attributed to analysts' incentives to curry favor with managers. We appeal to cognitive psychology literature on motivated reasoning and propose that forecasting difficulty interacts with such incentives to yield the observed walkdown. Higher forecasting difficulty generates a wider range of outcomes from which analysts can justify optimistically biased forecasts. In regression analyses, we find that the interaction between analysts' incentives for optimism and difficulty exhibits the strongest effect on earnings walkdowns. We also examine revenue forecasts as a benchmark of lower forecasting difficulty and find that revenue walkdowns are relatively diminutive. However, when analysts forecast losses, revenue forecasts are more critical and exhibit markedly steeper walkdowns. Our results suggest that analyst forecast walkdowns are better characterized by an interactive effect between analysts' strategic incentives for optimism and forecasting difficulty. JEL Classifications: G17; M41. Data Availability: Data are available from public sources identified in the text.
ABSTRACT We specify measures of accounting consistency both across time and across firms based on the textual similarity of accounting policy footnotes disclosed in 10-K filings. We first examine how these measures relate to earnings quality. Accounting consistency over time is positively associated with a number of earnings quality proxies, including earnings persistence, predictability, accrual quality, and absolute discretionary accruals. We also find that lower consistency relative to other firms in the industry is associated with larger absolute accrual model residuals. Finally, we examine the information processing effects of accounting consistency. We find that greater accounting consistency in the time-series and the cross-section is associated with lower information asymmetry, as proxied by bid-ask spread and illiquidity. Greater cross-sectional consistency is also associated with greater analyst coverage, more accurate analyst forecasts, decreased dispersion in analyst forecasts, and stronger stock return synchronicity. Data Availability: The accounting consistency measures developed in this study are available upon request. All other data are available from the sources cited in the text. JEL Classifications: M41.