WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- Much of the media engaged in a game of Mad Libs on Citigroup's (C - Get Report) earnings, reported yesterday. The given text involved Citigroup's earnings, 74% and $3.8 billion. The media just had to supply the excited verb. Look at The New York Times, which went with: "Citigroup Earnings Rise 74% to $3.8 Billion." The Financial Times, for its part, ran a slight variant: "Citigroup earnings jump 74% to $3.8bn."
The only problem? Well, it's a biggie. The 74% and $3.8 billion were the product of a $1.9 billion, one-time accounting fluke. Using the 74%/$3.8 billion as a showcase headline is delusional, something only the media--no trader--would do.
Indeed, traders promptly took the stock down. Citigroup warned about long-term emerging market weakness and bloating costs. Meanwhile, the housing market still stinks and investment banking was grim. Still, the media kept trying to force the impressive looking numbers down gullets, even when (yes, Wall Street Journal, I'm talking to you) you could totally sense they were trying to come to terms with the dichotomy between what they were trumpeting and what investors saw: "Citi Shines, but Investors Shrug - Bank Shares Fall Despite Strong Earnings From the New York Lender."
Do you really think that if Citigroup had been a legitimately shining star investors would have shrugged? No matter--the Journal was off compounding the confusion in its lead: "Citigroup Inc.'s third quarter was a bright spot in what is shaping up as a lackluster earnings season for banks."With apologies to overreaction both up and down, one-time charges should never rule the day's thoughts. Look beyond them, even when the media fails to.