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The Relationship Between Analyst Coverage and the Distribution of Security Returns
MacLean, Stephen J.
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The current study investigates the relationship between analyst coverage and the moments of the return distribution. Results are presented to support a time-varying pattern in the premiums associated with the higher moments of returns, particularly for the fourth moment of the distribution. In addition, evidence is presented to suggest that there exists some ex-post and ex-ante forecasting ability based on the use of the higher moments of the return distribution as stock selection criteria. In the second half of the study, results show that as the number of analysts following a firm increases, the third and fourth moments of the return distribution are impacted, with the former being reduced and the latter increased. In addition, the initiation and discontinuation of analyst coverage are both found to be related to the higher moments of the return distribution. The initiation of analyst coverage is associated with a reduction in skewness and an increase in excess kurtosis, while the discontinuation of coverage results in an increase in both of the higher moments of the distribution. Taken together, the results of the two main questions in the current research study suggest that investors seeking higher distributional moments of returns may favor neglected firms over their followed counterparts, particularly in periods of heightened market volatility. In addition, the results show that the two main competing hypotheses concerning the causes of non-normal security returns, namely firm information structure and security liquidity, both impact the higher moments of the return distribution.