Missing Financial Data
Missing data is a prevalent, yet often ignored, feature of company fundamentals. In this paper, we document the structure of missing financial data and show how to systematically deal with it. In a comprehensive empirical study we establish four key stylized facts. First, the issue of missing financial data is profound: it affects over 70% of firms that represent about half of the total market cap. Second, the problem becomes particularly severe when requiring multiple characteristics to be present. Third, firm fundamentals are not missing-at-random, invalidating traditional ad-hoc approaches to data imputation and sample selection. Fourth, stock returns themselves depend on missingness. We propose a novel imputation method to obtain a fully observed panel of firm fundamentals. It exploits both time-series and cross-sectional dependency of firm characteristics to impute their missing values, while allowing for general systematic patterns of missing data. Our approach provides a substantial improvement over the standard leading empirical procedures such as using cross-sectional averages or past observations. Our results have crucial implications for many areas of asset pricing.