The role of accounting accruals

Accounting earnings and cash flows as measures of firm performance
The role of accounting accruals
Patricia M. Dechow Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia,
In Journal of Accounting and Economics

This paper investigates circumstances under which accruals are predicted to improve earnings’ ability to measure firm performance, as reflected in stock returns. The importance of accruals is hypothesized to increase (i) the shorter the performance measurement interval, (ii) the greater the volatility of the firm’s working capital requirements and investment and financing activities, and (iii) the longer the firm’s operating cycle. Under each of these circumstances, cash flows are predicted to suffer more severely from timing and matching problems that reduce their ability to reflect firm performance. The results of empirical tests are consistent with these predictions.
Key words: Capital markets; Accruals; Operating cycle; Timing and matching problems;Summary measures of performance

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