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Called to Account: Earnings releases are still a confusing mess, and it’s investors who pay the price

Just two weeks into the fourth-quarter earnings season, and companies, including some big blue-chips, are producing some unusual and confusing releases that are certainly making life difficult for investors.

On Thursday, Ford Motor Co. F, -3.36% released one of the most unclear reports MarketWatch has seen, failing even to offer a year-earlier number for per-share earnings, or in this case a loss, per share. The car company even flipped its financial table to show the prior-year numbers before the current ones. It’s a basic financial reporting principle that tables are read from left to right, and some readers could have mistaken the 2016 numbers for the 2015 ones.

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