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For GM Earnings, The Devil Is in the Details

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Who needs nuance when there is earnings news to report and tables to bang? Apparently not the media, including Forbes. In reporting on General Motors' (GM) complex and nuanced earnings, many went the simplistically positive route. Cue a Forbes headline:

"GM Reports Strong Q1 Earnings"

And their lead:

"General Motors has parlayed higher vehicle prices and lower costs into better-than-expected earnings in the first quarter." Forbes went on to showcase strong prices and the extent of the earnings beat, but did not bother to mention a single negative. Not one. Unfortunately, there were -- amid the favorable prices and earnings beat -- plenty of negatives.

Barron's captured the balance and complexity of the results, right from the lead:

"General Motors is falling about 2% this morning after beating analysts' earnings estimates as the company posted strong U.S. profits but reported a loss in Europe and market share losses worldwide."

Amebas are one-celled organisms, but car companies are complex animals, especially in our congenitally uneven economy. If you don't see nuanced good and bad in car company earnings reports, they may drive the level of your understanding of the auto industry and international economy straight into a ditch.

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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