Last week, we discussed a highly politicized, misleading front page article about new bank rules (WSJ Jumps the Shark).

If you recall, that story included a large chart showing much various banks declined, in dollar and percentage terms.

Turns out the data was wildly wrong.

The Journal ran a milquetoast correction, under the heading “Corrections & Amplifications.” It was posted at the very bottom of that page, a location  not likely to be seen by many people.

It was not exactly a model of clarity:

Shares of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. fell $6.92, or 4.1%, to $160.87 in trading Thursday, while shares of Bank of America Corp. declined $1.02, or 6.2%, to $15.47; shares of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. fell $2.86, or 6.6%, to $40.54; shares of Morgan Stanley fell $1.29, or 4.2% to $29.34; shares of Citigroup Inc. fell $0.19, or 5.5%, to $3.27; and shares of Wells Fargo & Co. rose $0.18, or 0.6%, to $28. A chart published with a Page-One article Friday about new bank regulations incorrectly said the shares fell 7% for Goldman, 1% for Bank of America, 3% for J.P. Morgan, 1% for Morgan Stanley, 0.2% for Citigroup and rose 0.2% for Wells Fargo.

They also pulled the incorrect chart.

What they should have done was correct the data in the table, but for some reason, they chose not to. Since they failed to make the appropriate correction, perhaps we can be of assistance:


WSJ New Bank Rules Sink Stocks article:

Bank Price Change Reported % Change Actual % Change Inaccuracy
Goldman Sachs $6.92 7% 4.1% 41%
Bank of America $1.02 1% 6.2% 620%
J.P. Morgan Chase $2.86 3% 6.6% 120%
Morgan Stanley $1.29 1% 4.2% 420%
Citigroup $0.19 0.2% 5.5% 2650%
Wells Fargo $0.18 0.2% 0.6% 300%

Thus, they misreported the change by a factor of 692%. Remove the outlier (Citi’s 2,650%) and its off a mere 300%.

Now, when a newspaper skews its front page for political purposes, that is a form of bad journalism and intellectual sloppiness that leads to all manner of errors.

In my opinion, what caused this is this a form of political gaming of journalism that puts facts and objectivity second, and politics, first.

I am not suggesting that anyone purposely altered the numbers — but when the goal is no longer objective reporting of info, these things happen.

And when you can’t trust the front page of a paper to do basic math, you can’t trust ANYTHING in it.

Category: Financial Press, Mathematics

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

41 Responses to “More WSJ Errors: This Time, Its Math”

  1. tawm says:

    BR: I wish you would also point to the New York Times’ biases. You claim to offer bipartisan critiques, but your outrage seems skewed towards conservative and Republican sources. Rupert is no angel and is certainly not doing us readers any favors with the WSUrinal, but the Sulbergers haven’t either for years.


    BR: I don’t rely on the NYT for company and market info . . . so it matters less . . .

  2. It’s not an error if it’s done on purpose.

  3. Moss says:

    Reminds me of the Poll numbers from Faux that do not add up to 100%.
    Seems like they are using the same spreadsheet formulas which as u say put opinion in front of facts.

  4. Winston Munn says:

    It wasn’t an error – it was an accurate depiction of what “some say”….

  5. The Curmudgeon says:

    ever and always, the lamest, yet most common explanation for errors done intentionally is that “mistakes were made”, purposely not identifying the maker of these mistakes, as if some amorphous, unmamed entity (God, the devil, perhaps?) had, in this instance, mysteriously typed some junk numbers into the headline of the newspaper.

    Wise man say, “There are very few true accidents in this world.”

  6. Marcus Aurelius says:

    It’s not math, it’s numbers.

  7. also, how one pen a post about a media outlet, WSJ, and not mention its Owner, Rupert Murdoch?

    in this ex…

  8. vreporter says:

    There was nothing sinister. Their price feed merely reflected incorrect delta calculations because the %Change was calculated from a different/incorrect previous Close than the actual. It’s a very common problem with market data feeds… Settle down!

  9. Taliesn says:

    Well I guess , sadly , it was only a matter of time before ol’ Rupert’s ideologically correct mindset would infect this latest acquisition. The Washington has its Lord of the moonies ideological patron & apparently now so does the Wall St. Journal. Now I suppose this marks the 1st *red flag* and will become a new spectator sport as *independent* readers have to act as the parental supervision for MurdooxNews.
    I s’pose the only good thing in all of this was Ritholtz’s catching it and crying *bullshit* in what will hopefully become a more crowded theater. Stay tuned.

  10. Tim Kiblen says:

    Sounds just like the political discourse in this country. Can we no longer be pragmatic about issues? As a centrist I feel so all alone.

  11. princess says:

    I want the NYT Business section to run a brief front page article about this.

  12. wunsacon says:

    In the last thread about the WSJ reporting, did you notice that none of the headlines you quoted in the WSJ’s “defense” (e.g., “China, Not Obama, Sinks Stocks”) mentioned the Mass election?

    My interpretation of that election is: Voters voted for a Republican because they’re tired of Democrats doing nothing about Wall Street or public unions (while so many private workers are taking salary cuts, furloughs, and layoffs). Voters long for a bit of fiscal restraint that Republicans market themselves on. But, that isn’t good for the markets, which rise on cheap credit and fall without it.

    Now, Brown doesn’t necessarily portend significant change, because he could sell out like so many others in his party. But, we don’t know that yet. And who wants to associate a Republican election with a market decline?

    So, while some might see the WSJ as being “objective” with a couple of their headlines, I’m not sure about that.

  13. Transor Z says:

    @vreporter: And being the Wall Street Journal and being aware of “common” sources of incorrect market data, they caught the error before it went to print. Oh, they didn’t?

    Then I guess you just helped support Barry’s point.

  14. Taliesn says:

    This might be something that a David Faber might call *on air* attention to.

  15. garo says:

    They just switched the price change with the percentage change field. It is sloppy but not evidence of politicization.

  16. GB says:

    To restate the obvious, this is not skewed reporting, but rather careless misreporting. Subtle, but important difference, no?

  17. carlwied says:

    WSJ = FoxNEWS print edition

  18. Marcus Aurelius says:

    Forgot to mention:

    These numbers are well within the acceptable tolerances for accuracy when calculated using the latest GAAP.

    And now for sports scores:

    23/20, 17/11, 3/1, and in a squeaker, 3/2 . . .

    (George Carlin)

  19. BTW, the error undercut their argument –it made the stock price drops mostly less ugly

  20. Patrick Neid says:

    “And when you can’t trust the front page of a paper to do basic math, you can’t trust ANYTHING in it.”


    You got a problem with Rupert I think.

  21. dickie says:

    Thanks for the confirmation of what I felt I was seeing. Editorial bleeding into the news sections. I would not continue reading it if they didn’t keep dropping it off on the front porch regardless of my asking them to cancel the subscription. If they manage their subscriptions this poorly, how can they manage their newsroom.

  22. primordial_ooze says:

    It is not a error made because of political biases, it is because this country has become
    totally numerically illiterate. Seemingly intelligent people are completely incapable of
    basic arithmetic. It is a reflection of the failure of our schools to instill basic competence.

  23. lovejoy says:

    “In my opinion, what caused this is this a form of political gaming of journalism that puts facts and objectivity second, and politics, first.”

    You nailed it. News no longer exists. It is all propaganda

  24. crack says:

    Is it just me or does it look like what happened was they treated the $ change to a % change and rounded to 1 non-zero digit? I don’t think this was nefarious, I think it was minor league incompetence.

  25. Taliesn says:

    Well obviously it’s time to bring in the MurdoxNews finagling of the recent Anti-Obama Care “rally” video footage
    and it took Jon Stewart to catch it and make Hannity the laughing stock on YouTube with his “mistakes were made “on air” apology. Just in case anyone missed it….

    But then again one could say I guess the buck stops with Sect. of Fox News Roger Ailes and not President Murdock. This is why “Independents” are on the rise.

  26. schirimiester says:

    Kudlow !!

    God is he an asswipe.

    CNBC = FOX

  27. wilkeas says:

    Accessing the WSJ site today (1/28/10), the story has an undated “correction” appended that reports the same percentages as BR. The interface of due dilligence and correctable errors becomes more challenging in the age of instant responses, even if there is no intent to deceive.

  28. dsawy says:

    This sort of innumeracy is why I tuned out the mainstream press on all matters scientific, economic and technical about 15 years ago. The modern “journalist” is most often a run-of-the-mill liberal arts major who has been to some graduate school in “journalism.” They learn nothing about mathematics in either program.

    If you think these errors are humorous, you should have seen some of the mathematical errors I’ve kept from the NYT over the years.

    I especially love errors of the sort “A 237% decline in…” — my response is always of the form “After the first 100% decline, where did the next 137% decline come from?”

  29. epirus says:

    Seems like the inaccuracy column is off for GS, JPM and C.

  30. bman says:

    Everything is a lie in this world, Everythings a lie, and that’s the truth.
    Manu Chao

  31. FrancoisT says:

    Patrick Neid Says:

    You got a problem with Rupert I think.”

    Perhaps it is because Rupert IS a problem, hmmmm?

  32. Mark75 says:

    I don’t know if it may be a consolation, but these things happen all over the world. I was reading a report that showed that in Italy, news shown in tv have little relation to what really happens in the country…. (well, I know you probably wouldn’t take Italy as an example of how news should be reported…)

  33. EAR says:


    Apparently you can’t call out the WSJ without someone whining like a petulant child and removing their thumb from their mouth briefly to ink their liberal stamp and sloppily press it upon yet another person who points out the sloppiness of partisan bias.

    “You got a problem with Rupert I think.”

    Oh, poor persecuted Rupert! The man and his pristine publication are under siege!

    Please, indeed.

  34. Patrick Neid says:

    Jeez I come back from work to find a couple of Barry’s she bitches making noises. Good grief aliases, Barry can handle himself. To repeat for the learning/hearing impaired: I think he has a problem with Rupert much the same as people have a problem with Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. If that is too difficult to comprehend I ‘ll meet you to ho’s out back and I’ll draw you a diagram.

    Chill girls, it will get better tomorrow.

  35. EAR says:


    Another big talker typin’ tough.

    Real name or not the weakest always say the roughest shit on the web.
    They think it makes up for their true cowardice but it actually exposes it.

    I wonder if you would call me a ho if we were actually “out back”?

    I sincerely doubt it.

  36. Matt says:

    However, I just had two observations on your recent posting:

    1. Worth noting that the incorrect percentages they quoted appear to
    have been caused by interpreting the dollar change in price as the
    percentage change in price.

    2. This looks like a really stupid and sloppy error, but really doesn’t
    look like a conspiracy to make a political point, as most of the errors
    underestimated the percentage change in the bank stocks on the day (as
    the stock prices were <$100 apart from Goldman. Enjoying the blog, Matt.

  37. CountingSheep says:

    Uh aren’t you just being a little intellectually dishonest yourself?

    “Thus, they misreported the change by a factor of 692%. ”

    You’re really going to use factors to quantify the error?

    Quickly eyeballing the numbers, the less hysterical way to report the error would “reported percentage changes were lower than actuals, by up to 5.3%”

  38. Patrick Neid says:

    Man up Ear and start posting with your real name. It is easy to call people petulant children and the like, disrespecting other posters hiding behind an alias. Myself you can find everything I have ever posted. Hell with just a little looking you can find where I live, what I look like. You, you’re just hiding afraid to be held accountable for every comment you ever make. And spare me the bullshit about your job preventing you.

    Unlike so many other posters, like yourself, I have never disrespected another poster in my comments until they are stupid enough to do so. At that point you become a ho.

  39. EAR says:

    OK Neid,

    I’m not going to suddenly unveil my name on the web to satisfy some loud mouth turd. You don’t matter that much.

    But email me at and let me know if you’re in NYC or the next time you will be and we can give you an opportunity you can “man up” in the actual sense of the term and call me a ho to my face.

  40. EAR says:

    BTW Neid,

    I’m done with this here. I have too much respect for TBP to continue this in it’s comments section.

    You have the email address.

  41. Talin says:

    I’ve been meaning to write about this idea for a while, but a recent posting on Boing Boing reminded me of it again.

    I believe that most so-called “conspiracies” are in fact subconscious conspiracies – meaning that one can be a member of a conspiracy without actually knowing it.

    A subconscious conspiracy behaves much like a conscious one – that is, you have some group of individuals who share a covert agenda, one that would be considered detrimental or even diabolical by the general public. There are secret meetings, cover-ups, and a web of insidious influence. And yet, no one in the group realizes that this is going on.

    One might ask how such things can go on without the participants being aware of what they are doing? As I often say, “never dismiss human dismissiveness”. It’s easy to convince yourself that what you are doing is “just natural”, that there’s nothing special or untoward about your actions.

    Here’s how subconscious conspiracies work: Say you have a group of people in power – goverment officials or perhaps a corporate board of directors. Say also that these individuals are tightly-knit, with a common history and shared goals. Now, also suppose that this group is somewhat insular, isolated from the outside by a layer of protection (by this I mean things like office assistants, press secretaries, and others who mediate the discourse between members of this group and those outside the group – what Heinlein called flappers.) What happens is that these individual eventually, and inevitably, take on a cult-like aspect.

    I’ve personally seen this kind of groupthink at work: What ends up happening is that, for any given member of the group, the vast majority of their discourse is with other members of the group. A given factoid (by which I mean literally “having the form of a fact”, which is implied by the suffix -oid) will bounce from one member to another, until everyone ends up believing it, irregardless of its actual truth. “We have the best product in the industry!” says the CEO. And when you ask the CEO why he believes this is true, he replies that it’s because the engineering VP assures him that this is true; And when you ask the same question to the engineering VP, he’ll say that it’s because the CEO says it’s true. And so on.

    In a subconscious conspiracy, everyone believes that they are in fact working for the public interest – it’s just that their view of the public interest is completely skewed beyond all recognition.

    And of course, when they try to communicate with people who aren’t in the group, there’s a disconnect – they sense that these outsiders aren’t aligned with their goals, and they begin to percieve them as a threat. And of course, once the human threat response enters the picture, collective insanity is not far behind. They begin to exclude outsiders and other people who “wouldn’t understand” from their circle; their thoughts turn to how they can discredit and undermine their enemies – all in the cause of what’s good and righteous, of course.

    The most important thing to understand about subconscious conspiracies, however, is that they are merely symptoms of a deeper cause. And as usual with symptomatic maladies, merely treating the symptoms does no good. With a regular, conscious conspiracy, all that you need to is round up the ring leaders and toss them in jail. But with a symptomatic conspiracy, the same conditions that created the conspiracy will simply continue to create new conspiracies to replace the old one.