The association between quarter length, forecast errors, and firms’ voluntary disclosures

Stephen A. Hillegeist, James P. Kavourakis, Matthew Pinnuck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Approximately 60 percent of adjacent fiscal quarters contain a different number of calendar days. In preliminary analyses, we find the change in quarter length is significantly associated with the changes in sales and earnings and that analysts condition on the prior quarter's results when making their forecasts. These results indicate that it is important for analysts to adjust for changes in quarter length when making forecasts. However, we find the quarterly change in days is positively associated with analysts’ sales and earnings forecasts errors, where forecast error equals the actual earnings minus the forecasted earnings. These results indicate that analysts systematically underestimate (overestimate) performance when quarter length increases (decreases). We find evidence indicating investors make similar errors as returns around earnings announcements are positively associated with the change in quarter length, but only when changes in firm performance is more sensitive to changes in quarter length. Corroborating these findings, managers are more (less) likely to discuss quarter length during conference calls when quarter length decreases (increases). These results are consistent with managers’ strategic disclosure incentives. In summary, our evidence suggests analysts and investors fail to fully take account of the quasi-mechanical effect that quarter length has on firm performance and managers strategically alter their voluntary disclosures to take advantage of these failures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAccounting and Finance
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • analysts
  • disclosure
  • forecast errors
  • quarter length

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)

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