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Abstract

The SEC and FASB recently expressed concerns that investors do not fully assimilate all of the information provided by complex and incomplete derivatives and other comprehensive income (OCI) disclosures. My evidence supports these concerns. Specifically, I examine the information content of unrealized cash flow hedge gains/losses for future profitability and stock returns. An unrealized gain on a cash flow hedge suggests that the price of the underlying hedged item (i.e., commodity price, foreign currency exchange rate, or interest rate) moved in a direction that will impair the firm's profits after the hedge expires. Consequently, I find that unrealized cash flow hedge gains/losses are negatively associated with future gross profit after the firm's existing hedges have expired. This association only holds after the firm has reclassified its hedges into earnings, and is weaker for firms that can pass input price changes on to their customers. Finally, investors do not immediately price the cash flow hedge information. Instead, investors appear surprised by future realizations of gross margin, consistent with the view that complex and incomplete disclosures delay pricing. These results are relevant to policymakers involved in the current FASB and IASB project designed to simplify the accounting and disclosure for derivatives and, in particular, cash flow hedges.