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Beyond the Numbers: An Analysis of Optimistic and Pessimistic Language in Earnings Press Releases

In this paper, we examine whether managers use optimistic and pessimistic language in earnings press releases to provide information about expected future firm performance to the market, and whether the market responds to optimistic and pessimistic language usage in earnings press releases after controlling for the earnings surprise and other factors likely to influence the market's response to the earnings announcement. We use textual-analysis software to measure levels of optimistic and pessimistic language for a sample of approximately 24,000 earnings press releases issued between 1998 and 2003. We find a positive (negative) association between optimistic (pessimistic) language usage and future firm performance and a significant incremental market response to optimistic and pessimistic language usage in earnings press releases. Results suggest managers use optimistic and pessimistic language to provide credible information about expected future firm performance to the market, and that the market responds to managers' language usage.

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https://doi.org/10.20955/wp.2006.005