Profit, cash flow, and leverage: the case of ASEAN stock market performance during the COVID-19 pandemic

Yulianti Abbas, Yunieta Anny Nainggolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the first quarter of 2020 has caused a severe decline in stock markets worldwide. While prior studies in developed markets found that workplace closure can negatively impact the capital market (e.g. Ozili and Arun, 2020), lesser is known about how it impacts emerging capital markets, which may have different characteristics and behaviour (Harjoto et al., 2021). Hence, this study seeks to uncover stock performance around workplace closure dates of firms incorporated in ASEAN countries and investigates the role of accounting fundamentals in mitigating workplace closure policy's effects on stock performances. Design/methodology/approach: Using an event study methodology, the authors measure the cumulative abnormal returns (CARs) around workplace closure dates. The authors then use cross-sectional analysis to analyse whether the accounting fundamentals, specifically profitability, cash flow, and leverage, are associated with the CAR. This cross-sectional study involves 1,720 firms that are incorporated in the ASEAN countries. Findings: This analysis indicates that, on average, ASEAN capital markets react negatively to workplace closure policies. The authors then find that the CARs around workplace closure dates are positively associated with the current ratios and are negatively associated with long-term debt ratios. This study’s results thus indicate that firms with a higher liquidity and a higher solvency experience a less adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic than other firms. The authors also find that the associations are more robust for (1) firms in industries more affected by COVID-19 and (2) firms located in countries with more severe cases. Additionally, contrary to this study’s expectation, the authors do not find meaningful associations between CARs around workplace closure dates and firms' cash flow from operation and profit respectively. This study’s results suggest that investors view prior performances related to firms' ability to generate operating cash flow and profit as less relevant to measure firm performance around the workplace closure event. Research limitations/implications: This study’s results contribute to studies examining fundamental accounting roles during the COVID-19 era, specifically in emerging economies. The findings are critical for investors in understanding the company fundamentals associated with stock price performance in emerging markets during the recent health-related crisis. Originality/value: Most studies analysing cross-sectional differences in stock returns during the COVID-19 era focus on industry-level differences and use observations from developed markets (Sinagl, 2020; Ramelli and Wagner, 2020). Studies using firm-level analysis in emerging markets are still limited. The authors expand prior studies by using firm-level analysis that spans six countries in ASEAN.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)898-921
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Accounting in Emerging Economies
Issue number5
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • ASEAN stock Markets
  • Cash flow
  • COVID-19
  • Leverage
  • Profitability
  • Workplace closure


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