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Comparing with the average: Reference points and market reactions to above-average earnings surprises

Wen He and Yan Li

Journal of Banking & Finance, 2020, vol. 117, issue C

Abstract: We examine whether the average earnings surprises announced yesterday affect investors’ responses to earnings news announced today. We find that in the short window surrounding an earnings announcement, the market rewards today's earnings news that is above yesterday's average earnings surprises with a premium, consistent with yesterday's average becoming a reference point for investors to classify today's earnings news as a gain or a loss. The price premium for an above-average earnings surprise is larger when more earnings announcements are made on the same day and when investors face greater uncertainty in assessing firms’ performance. We interpret this evidence as suggesting that investors rely more on the average as a reference point when they are more likely to be subject to cognitive constraints in processing information. We also find that firms announcing above-average earnings surprises exhibit a greater abnormal trading volume, consistent with the notion that beating reference points prompts investors to trade.

Keywords: Earnings surprises; Reference point; Stock returns; Trading volume; Behavioral finance (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: G12 M40 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:jbfina:v:117:y:2020:i:c:s0378426620300911

DOI: 10.1016/j.jbankfin.2020.105824

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