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Abstract

This paper examines variations in the financial reporting environment internationally. In particular, I investigate the relation between variations in accounting-related institutional factors (choice, accrual accounting and enforcement) and the accuracy of analysts' earnings forecasts. Controlling for firm- and country-level factors, I document that the extent of choice among accounting methods is associated with lower forecast accuracy. This finding is consistent with analysts' performance suffering from the increased task complexity (and/or managers using flexibility for purposes other than to provide information). The degree of prescribed accrual accounting is positively correlated with forecast accuracy, consistent with both accruals providing useful information and with the smoothing function of accruals. Enforcement of accounting standards is positively related with forecast accuracy, suggesting that enforcement encourages managers to follow prescribed rules, which, in turn, reduces analysts' uncertainty. Finally, I examine whether the roles of accrual accounting and choice vary with the level of enforcement. Although univariate tests support these interaction hypotheses, multivariate tests do not.