CPAs want to know what investors think, and so the Center for Audit Quality, affiliated with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, has been surveying investors for a few years. The results for 2009 show that those surveyed with much confidence in the U.S. capital markets have fallen to 24% in 2009 from 39% in 2007. Clearly, 2008's downturn had an effect.

Here's a bit of reassuring news for CPAs: Confidence in public companies' audited financial statements fell just three percentage points to 70%. Well, I looked a little more closely at that data table, and that 70% is for those with a great deal of confidence, quite a bit of confidence, and some confidence -- combined. If you take out the "some" respondents, then those with a great deal or quite a bit of confidence have fallen significantly, from 38% in 2007 to 28% in 2009. There's not as much trust.

Investing less?
Here's the kicker for me, though: It seems that about 60% of respondents have changed their behavior over the past six months. And what changes have they made? Well, check them out:

  • 22% invested less money.
  • 8% diversified their investments.
  • 7% left their investments alone.

In contrast, only 5% invested more money.

The stock market (as measured by the S&P 500) is up about 25% over the past six months, as I write this. Those folks who invested less money have probably lost out on considerable gains. If that's you, take heart -- the table below shows some companies that have appreciated significantly over the past six months, but are still highly rated by investors in our Motley Fool CAPS community, with five out of five stars:

Company

6-Month Return

Emerson Electric (NYSE:EMR)

27%

Flowserve (NYSE:FLS)

64%

Petroleo Brasileiro (NYSE:PBR)

34%

Western Union (NYSE:WU)

33%

Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM)

39%

BP (NYSE:BP)

36%

ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT)

40%

Data: Motley Fool CAPS.

And they're not alone -- there are hundreds of others. Yes, the market has surged lately, and so have many stocks. But that doesn't mean you're too late to invest. As my colleague Jim Mueller suggests, we can still take advantage of the best opportunity this decade. And as Morgan Housel has written, bargain stocks are everywhere.

So next time you're called and asked about your investing, be one of the savvy respondents -- the ones who added to their investments when stocks were on sale, or who at least sat tight and didn't sell.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Emerson Electric. Western Union is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation and an Inside Value recommendation. Petroleo Brasileiro is an Income Investor pick. Philip Morris International is a Global Gains selection. Try any of our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools