It used to be that earnings moved stock markets, but now even the “calamity” of missing analysts’ consensus forecast of earnings causes an average 1.5% drop in the share price that day — a change that’s within the range of normal.
The flip side — surpassing the consensus — boosts the price by merely about half a percentage point.
Face it: reported earnings under GAAP don’t matter as much as they used to. And it’s not just earnings that have lost relevance for investors. The relationship between share prices and the six most important financial indicators (sales; cost of sales; the selling, general and administrative expenses best known as SG&A expenses; earnings; assets; liabilities) has decreased dramatically over the past 50 to 60 years, as the chart below shows. Our calculations show that financial reports currently provide a mere 5%-6% of investors’ information.
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About the Author Baruch Lev is the Philip Bardes Professor of Accounting and Finance.