Bush: "Distrust" About Accounting Weighs on Stocks

President Bush said Friday he believed distrust about corporate reporting was hanging over the stock market because of a "few bad apples" and said corporate America must "clean up its act."

Bush told reporters in Orlando he believed the vast majority of U.S. corporations were honest about their assets and liabilities and was confident in the future of the U.S. economy and that the accounting problems were being addressed.

"I do think that there is an overhang over the market of distrust. Ninety-five percent, or some percentage, huge percentage, of the business community are honest and reveal all of their assets, (have) got compensation programs that are balanced but there are some bad apples," Bush said.

"The business world must clean up its act," he added as he responded to questions from reporters at an Orlando seniors center. "People have got to have confidence as to whether or not the assets and liabilities are good numbers."

Last year's spectacular bankruptcy of one-time high-flying energy trader Enron Corp and several other accounting scandals have ignited investor worries about corporate accounting practices.

The U.S. stock market, which fell to its lowest levels of the year Thursday, declined again Friday because of distrust of corporate balance sheets and worries that corporate profit growth will continue to be sluggish.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down about 155 points, or 1.65 percent, at 9,276 in late trading.

"They've got to have confidence that the leadership has got the shareholder and employee in mind when they make decisions. So I am concerned about that," Bush added. "In this era where we expect there to be personal responsibility in America we expect there to be corporate responsibility as well."

Bush added: "I believe it's being addressed. I have got confidence in the future of our country. I have got confidence in our economy. I have got confidence that we are doing everything we can to stop terrorism."

On Thursday Bush told business executives that he thought uncertainty about the economy, fears of future "terrorist" attacks and concerns about the accuracy of corporate reporting were contributing to the stock market's jitters.

"I think we are addressing all three of those. Obviously corporate profits are important. People are going to make their decisions based upon their view of the future and P-E ratios at the moment," he said.

"Obviously there is concern in our society about possible terrorist attacks. I think most people in America know we are doing everything we can to deal with them, particularly (by) chasing these people down," he added.

The United States is hunting operatives of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network that it blames for the Sept. 11 attacks that killed about 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.