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ABSTRACT

We examine whether analysts' incentives to maintain good relationships with management contribute to the optimistic/pessimistic within-period time trend in analysts' forecasts. In our experiments, 81 experienced sell-side analysts from two brokerage firms predict earnings based on historical information and management guidance. Analysts' forecasts exhibit an optimistic/pessimistic pattern across the two timing conditions (early and late in the quarter), and the effect is significantly stronger when the analysts have a good relationship with management than when their only incentive is to be accurate. Debriefing results indicate that analysts are aware of this pattern of forecasts, and believe that this benefits their future relationships with management and with brokerage clients. The analysts most frequently cite favored conference call participation and information access when describing benefits from maintaining good relationships with management. Our results suggest the following: The optimistic/pessimistic pattern in forecasts is in part a conscious response to relationship incentives, information access is perceived to be a major benefit of management relationships, and recent regulatory changes may have lessened but have not eliminated this conflict of interest source.