The Accrual Anomaly: Risk or Mispricing?

David Hirshleifer, Kewei Hou, and Siew Hong Teoh

 Management Science, February 2012


We document considerable return comovement associated with accruals after controlling for other common factors. An accrual-based factor-mimicking portfolio has a Sharpe ratio of 0.16, higher than that of the market factor or the SMB and HML factors of Fama and French (1993). According to rational frictionless asset pricing models, the ability of accruals to predict returns should come from the loadings on this accrual factor-mimicking portfolio. However, our tests indicate that it is the accrual characteristic rather than the accrual factor loading that predicts returns. These findings suggest that investors misvalue the accrual characteristic, and cast doubt on the rational risk explanation.

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