We document a strong negative relationship between the growth of total firm assets and subsequent firm stock returns using a broad sample of U.S. stocks. Over the past 40 years, low asset growth stocks have maintained a return premium of 20% per year over high asset growth stocks. The asset growth return premium begins in January following the measurement year and persists for up to five years. The firm asset growth rate maintains an economically and statistically important ability to forecast returns in both large capitalization and small capitalization stocks. In the cross-section of stock returns, the asset growth rate maintains large explanatory power with respect to other previously documented determinants of the cross-section of returns (i.e., size, prior returns, book-to-market ratios). We conclude that risk-based explanations have some difficulty in explaining such a large and consistent return premium.
Keywords: Asset growth, Cross-section of stock returns
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