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Stock Market Game Week in Review

Maybe it's the warmer temperatures and sunny skies, the recent YouTube clip of Susan Boyle or the rescue of the Maersk Alabama, but it seems like things are looking up!

Last week was a pretty good week on Wall Street as well, especially for the banks. Goldman Sachs (GS), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Citigroup (C) all reported first-quarter earnings last week, and each posted better-than-expected gains. This came on the heels of Wells Fargo (WFC), which reported significant gains the week before. Banking stocks have rallied 30% since early March.

While the positive news is boosting the spirits of many within the sector, most analysts feel the results that truly matter are those of the government's stress tests, which will not be unveiled until the end of the month. The tests were designed to evaluate how big banks would fare if the economy got even worse. Only time will tell if we're truly out of the woods yet.

With the current focus on company earnings, those new to The Stock Market Game and investing in general may be unfamiliar with quarterly reports. What does "quarterly earnings report" mean?

In essence, a quarterly earnings report is much like a student's report card, except it's for publicly traded companies. These reports, usually filed in January, April, July and October, let shareholders know how well the company has performed over the previous three months. Included in these reports are net income, earnings per share, earnings from continuing operations and net sales.

Most often, the key metrics -- net income and earnings per share -- are compared with the previous year's numbers. Analysts and investors then gauge the financial health of the company and whether or not to invest.

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