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.