Graziadio Working Paper Series


Target price forecasts: Fundamental and non-fundamental factors

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This paper reveals both fundamental and non-fundamental factors play an important role in analysts’ target price formation. Analysts’ forecasts of short-term earnings and long-term growth are shown to be important explanatory variables for target prices; equally, the following salient non-fundamental factors are also shown to explain target price levels and especially target price biases: the 52-week high price and recent market sentiment. Here, increases in the 52-week high and market sentiment measures of one standard deviation correspond to increases in positive target price bias of 4.8% and 14.7%, respectively. Initially our analysis is constrained to analysts who provide long-term growth forecasts, however, our findings are robust to the removal of this constraint and the broader set of analysts. Our analysis reveals that analysts place greater weight on these non-fundamental factors in settings with greater task complexity and/or resource constraints, and when they rely on valuation heuristics as opposed to more rigorous valuation methodology, and that this greater weight is associated with increased optimistic bias. Finally, our results show that analysts’ target prices are useful in predicting future stock returns beyond earnings forecasts and commonly used risk proxies. However, in an internally consistent fashion, the informativeness of target prices for future returns is significantly reduced when greater weight is placed on either the 52-week high or recent market sentiment in the target price formation process.