ACCOUNTING: Balance-Sheet Battle

In the board rooms of some 1,000 big companies across the U.S., executives are eying an arcane but potentially far-reaching bookkeeping innovation that will affect the size and shape of what business calls "profits." The Securities and Exchange Commission is now requiring large corporations to adopt a procedure called "replacement-cost accounting." The move represents a long-overdue attempt to clear away the distorting effects of inflation on a company's bottom line. The rule involves some tinkering with numbers that, if integrated into the corporate accounts, could cause a sharp downward jag in...

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