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Wal-Mart's Mixed Earnings Bag

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The media's split personality was in full flower covering Wal-Mart's (WMT - Get Report) earnings report -- and, by and large, it skipped two important factors along the way.

About that split personality. Wal-Mart's earnings were a mixed bag, tending toward the negative. But the media doesn't do complex well. Instead, as is their unfortunate tendency, many media outlets took the easier and more simplistic route: either wholly positive or all negative.

Reuters went with the headline: "Wal-Mart international growth slows, shares fall." In other words: bad to the bone.

The Associated Press, by contrast, was a Good Time Charlie: "Wal-Mart 2Q profit rises 5.7 pct, raises outlook."

In the process of veering toward extremes, neither of these news outlets managed to mention currency fluctuation or J.C. Penney's (JCP - Get Report) decimation.

Currency took a toll on revenue by a count of more than $2 billion. Without the fluctuation, sales would have been nearly $116 billion, almost hitting expectations, as The New York Times was right to point out. Sales were still disappointing and evidence of a strained low-to-middle income consumer, but it's no full-fledged disaster.

There is also the matter of J.C. Penney. Wal-Mart competes with Target (TGT - Get Report), Kohl's (KSS - Get Report), J.C. Penney and others, but the latter has been in near free-fall recently.

Wal-Mart has obviously poached customers from J.C. Penney. Even so, Wal-Mart's results were a touch light, which says little good about the economy. It also means that Wal-Mart traders need to keep an eye peeled for J.C. Penney. If it ever does recover, Wal-Mart will suffer. If it fully implodes, that will mean added business for Wal-Mart.

It's all complex stuff. Not the media's thing.

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

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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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KSS $46.50 0.00%
JCP $9.71 0.00%
TGT $79.21 0.00%
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