NBR: Should You Trust Wall St.? Maybe Not

By SIMON CONSTABLE



Something has vanished from Main Street: Trust in Wall Street.

How do we know this? Small investors are dumping stocks.

Even as the stock market has soared close to record highs, retail investors sold $138 billion in shares.The data comes from The Investment Company Institute and tracks mutual and exchange-traded fund investments, a rough proxy for the retail sector.

Some people will tell you that small investors are bailing on stocks because they are too emotional and so they make terrible decisions.  They were burned by the credit crunch and the popping of the tech bubble and are now gun shy.  

In short, the message is, they are stupid because they’ve missed the recent rally, but maybe they aren’t.  Maybe they are justly shy of the shenanigans on Wall Street.  

New research shows that one in five chief financial officers of public companies admit to cooking the books, according to a recent study from professors at Emory and Duke Universities.  In a survey they found that about 20 percent of CFOs used accounting tricks that didn’t reflect the companies’ underlying operations.  The size of the misstatements—about 10 percent of earnings.  

Wow! If that sounds bad, it’s actually worse than you think.  

This type of book cooking is completely legal.  And because it’s legal, nothing will be done about it.  If you don’t know what the company’s truly making, why would you invest?  

Maybe that's a good reason to steer clear of the U.S. stock market.
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