The relationship between asset growth and the cross-section of stock returns
There is a large body of literature examining the association between stock characteristics and the cross-section of stock returns in international markets. Recently, Cooper et al. (2008) reported a strong association between total asset growth and stock returns in the US. In this paper, we show that an asset-growth effect also exists in the Australian equity market. Of particular interest, it is present amongst the largest Australian stocks. Over the 1983-2007 period, an equally-weighted portfolio of low-growth Big stocks outperforms a portfolio of high-growth Big stocks by an average 1% per month, equating to nearly 13% per annum. At an individual stock level of analysis, the asset-growth effect remains even after controlling for other variables whose association with the cross-section of returns is well known. Finally, we explicitly test whether asset growth is a priced risk factor using the common two-stage cross-sectional regression methodology. We find no evidence to support a risk-based explanation, thereby lending credence to Cooper et al.'s (2008) suggestion that the asset-growth effect is attributable to mispricing.
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