What Do Measures of Real-Time Corporate Sales Tell Us About Earnings Surprises and Post-announcement Returns?
by Kenneth A. Froot, Namho Kang, Gideon Ozik, and Ronnie Sadka
Executive Summary — This study by Kenneth A. Froot and colleagues show that managers’ departures from the Timely Disclosure Hypothesis—the notion that managers release through available announcement channels all of their then-current private information—may be sensitive to post-quarter private information managers have obtained. Managers may act through their stock trading to benefit from these departures.
: We develop real-time proxies of retail corporate sales from multiple sources, including approximately 50 million mobile devices. These measures contain information from both the earnings quarter (within quarter) and the period between that quarter’s end and the earnings announcement date (post quarter). Our within-quarter measure is powerful in explaining quarterly sales growth, revenue surprises, and earnings surprises, generating average excess returns at announcement of 3.4%. However, surprisingly, our post-quarter measure is related negatively to announcement returns and positively to post-announcement returns. When post-quarter private information is directionally strong, managers, at announcement, provide guidance and use language that points statistically in the opposite direction. This effect is more pronounced when, post-announcement, management insiders trade. We conclude managers do not fully disclose their private information and instead message to shareholders and analysts something of opposite sign. The data suggest they may be motivated in part by subsequent personal stock-trading opportunities.