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TheStreet Open House

GM Earnings - The Real Story Behind the Numbers

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- General Motors (GM) reported 4th quarter earnings, and would you know it? Much of the media focused on the company's record-setting full year numbers. The automaker's weak 4th quarter was subordinated or completely ignored. Worse, the reason for the late year fizzle in GM's business, which will impact the company going forward, was not even mentioned.

Sometimes, we catch the media in measured oversights. This was mammoth. The Financial Times, for example, ran a full-year centric headline: "GM earnings hit record $7.6bn in 2011." Remarkably, they mentioned GM's full-year net income, but nothing about the 4th quarter.

The Wall Street Journal also led with the flashy full-year number, but at least they got around to the troublesome fourth quarter, though the cause they trotted out was incomplete: European weakness. That's a half-story, at best.

Here's the whole deal: GM had an unrealistically easy first portion of the year. Tsunami related disruptions in Japan sent Japanese automakers like Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) reeling. For that small window of time, GM was playing against a reduced field of competition. But as Japan recovered as the year progressed, business at GM snapped off. Japanese automakers are now back to stay and wouldn't you know it? GM's management was maddeningly vague about 2012 forecasts.

The link is clear and it's pathetic the media is not making it. Don't be fooled.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.

For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Fuchs appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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