M-RCBG Faculty Working Paper No. 2015-05

Tips and Tells from Managers: How Analysts and the Market Read Between the Lines of Conference Calls

Marina Druz, Alexander F. Wagner and Richard Zeckhauser

February 2015


Stock prices react significantly to the tone (negativity of words) managers use on earnings conference calls. This reaction reflects reasonably rational use of information. “Tone surprise” -- the residual when negativity in managerial tone is regressed on the firm’s recent economic performance and CEO fixed effects -- predicts future earnings and analyst uncertainty. Prices move more, as hypothesized, in firms where tone surprise predicts more strongly. Experienced analysts respond appropriately in revising their forecasts; inexperienced analysts overreact (underreact) to tone surprises in presentations (answers). Post-call price drift, like post-earnings announcement drift, suggests less-than-full-use of information embedded in managerial tone.

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