Investors have proven to be sophisticated enough to dismiss implausible explanations from companies of their quarterly earnings results, according to a new study.

For example, a utility company might attribute their lower earnings to “warm weather and higher propane products costs,” while an insurance company might explain a good quarter by touting its “continued efforts on cost containment and operational efficiencies.” Self-serving attributions such as these, which typically blame outside factors for negative developments and claim that their own internal initiatives led to positive results, are a traditional part of corporate earnings reports and press releases. But that doesn’t mean investors generally believe them.

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