New York (March 21, 2003) -- The XBRL programming code for financial reports could provide a major boost to stock market investors, according to investment industry authorities at a symposium here.

XBRL will lead to "the democratization of data," said Alfred R, Berkeley, vice chairman of the NASDAQ Stock market. He said XBRL's potential to help investors and searchers more easily gather and disseminate financial reports could open the door to reviewing companies now overlooked because there's no analysis of their financial conditions.

Berkeley noted that investment analysts have ignored 748 of NASDAQ's 2,500 companies and that 396 companies have only one analyst assigned to them. "XBRL will make the fear factor go down so people will invest in those companies," he said at a meeting co-sponsored by Edgar Online, which manages the Securities and Exchange Commission's Edgar Web site, and the Business Wire new distribution service.

Other speakers, including a prominent investment analyst, predicted widespread acceptance of XBRL, the financial reporting version of Extensible Markup Language (XML), a format in which items in electronic files are tagged for instantaneous recognition by applications and retrieval by users. XBRL International, a consortium of about 200 businesses and other organizations brought together by the American Institute of CPAs in 1998, is developing it.

One of the main reasons for the symposium was to generate awareness within the investment industry, which, by most accounts, is largely unaware or disinterested in XBRL. For example, NASDAQ has endorsed XBRL for several months, but only about 25 of its companies have since posted their reports in XBRL.

- John M. Covaleski

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