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Use Analyst Target Price Forecasts to Rank Stocks?

August 21, 2023 • Posted in Equity Premium, Investing Expertise

While prior research indicates that analyst forecasts of future stock returns are substantially biased upward, might the relative rankings of return forecasts be informative? In their June 2023 paper entitled “Analysts Are Good at Ranking Stocks”, Adam Farago, Erik Hjalmarsson and Ming Zeng apply within-analyst 12-month stock┬áprice targets to rank stocks in two ways:

  1. Average Demeaned Return – each month, demean the returns implied by target prices from an analyst by subtracting from each return the average forecasted return for that analyst. Then, average the demeaned returns for a given stock across all analysts.
  2. Average Ranking – each month, rank stocks by forecasted return for each analyst. Then, average the rankings for a given stock across all analysts covering that stock.

Both approaches remove the upward biases observed in raw target prices. To test analyst forecast informativeness, they then form hedge portfolios that are each month long (short) the equal-weighted or value-weighted fifths, or quintiles, of stocks with the highest (lowest) demeaned returns or rankings that month. Using 12-month target prices for each analyst who issues targets for at least three stocks during a month and associated monthly firm characteristics and stock prices during March 1999 through December 2021, they find that:

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