Auditors get high marks, but non-US market optimism sags

The profession is seen as honest and independent.

Retail investors' confidence in audited financial information has risen to near record highs, but confidence in markets outside the United States has plunged, according to a yearly Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) survey.

The CAQ is affiliated with the AICPA.

The 2019 Main Street Investor Survey found that 78% of U.S. adults with at least $10,000 invested in the capital markets through retirement plans or direct holdings said they have at least some confidence in audited financial information. That's a rise of three percentage points over 2018, and it's tied for the second-highest confidence percentage on record in the survey, which began in 2007.

Meanwhile, 83% of investors said they have at least some confidence in independent auditors of publicly traded companies to advance investor protection. That's an increase from 81% the previous year, and auditors were the group that was most trusted by investors to protect their interests.

Independent audit committees of public companies (81%), financial analysts (81%), and financial advisers and brokers (78%) were the other leaders among groups trusted by investors.

The most common reason cited by those who have confidence in audited financial information was the belief that auditors provide honest and independent third-party scrutiny.

Just 47% of investors expressed at least some confidence in markets outside the United States, down from 56% in 2018. Those who lacked confidence in non-U.S. markets most commonly said they don't have confidence in governments outside the United States or they believe that other countries' economies are not doing well.

Almost three-fourths (74%) of respondents — the same percentage as 2018 — said they have at least some confidence in U.S. capital markets. Their top reason for optimism was the belief that the U.S. economy is doing well.

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