We find that the negative relation between accruals and future abnormal returns documented by Sloan (1996) is due mainly to inventory changes. We propose three explanations for this result, derived from the prior literature, but find evidence inconsistent with all three explanations. To assist future investigations in formulating additional explanations, we document several empirical regularities for extreme inventory change deciles. We speculate that demand shifts explain our results, and examine the feasibility of alternative reasons for the stock market's apparent inability to recognize the impending profitability reversals. Our evidence is consistent with earnings management masking the implications of demand shifts.
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