NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Well, earnings season is certainly off to a mixed start, and it may be wise for investors to pay more attention to what's going on with the financials than with a tech titan like Google ( GOOG), which sets the trends, rather than getting swept up in them. As usual with the banks, it's difficult to figure out if JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) beat or missed Wall Street's expectations. Both the headline per share number of $1.02 per share and the revenue total of $24.4 billion were ahead of the consensus but the trick comes in figuring out which special items were and weren't included in the various analyst estimates. Judging by the 5% decline in the stock price Thursday though, it's fair to say folks with money at stake see the quarter as a disappointment. Evercore Partners, a JPMorgan bull with an overweight rating and a 12-month price target of $46, says the $1.02 per share profit includes special items adding up to a 13-cent gain, bringing core earnings down to 89 cents per share, below the firm's expectation of 92 cents. "Overall, results essentially as expected with slightly better revenue (spread/NIM
net interest margins held up better while core fees worse) and expense control notable, while credit costs a bit higher than expected (with only modest reserve release) and capital strength maintained (with Tier 1 Common Basel III ratio of 7.7%) with even greater buybacks this quarter," Evercore observed. "Focus will be on management's guidance for 4Q and next year, which appears generally cautious, primarily around investment banking and NIM (though not unexpected given macro backdrop)." The headwinds are certainly stacked up for the banks in the fourth quarter as well. There's no reason to expect investment banking to snap out of third-quarter doldrums; the consumer business is still bracing for the full brunt of the Durbin amendment; mortgage defaults and foreclosures are still a formidable expense; lending is still sluggish because of weak housing and high unemployment; and implementing new fees risks raising the ire of customers and politicians alike. The list goes on and on.
The KBW Bank Index ( KBE) fell 3% on Thursday with Bank of America ( BAC), reporting next Tuesday, down 5.5%; and Citigroup ( C) and Wells Fargo ( WFC), both reporting on Monday, losing 5.3% and 3.1% respectively. The trepidation was also weighing on shares of Goldman Sachs ( GS), off 3%; and Morgan Stanley ( MS), dropping 4.4%; as the market wonders if both firms will look to drop their bank holding company status in order to dodge increased regulatory oversight, including an potential end to being able trading for their own profits. It doesn't get less Wall Street than not being able to trade for your own account. One anomaly of the bull market that peaked in late April was a lack of leadership from the banks, and it doesn't look like that trend will be changing any time soon. The only S&P 500 company reporting its quarterly results on Friday is Mattel ( MAT), which will offer up its fiscal third-quarter results before the opening bell. The current average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for earnings of 86 cents a share in the September-ended period on revenue of $1.97 billion. Sterne Agee, which has a buy rating and a price target of $34 on Mattel's stock, thinks the toy company could outperform expectations, as it has in the past four quarters, including a 40%-plus beat last time around. "Key toy drivers in the period may have included Barbie, Disney Princess lines, Monster High, Cars 2 and new holiday lines which were shipped in, including Figit and Hairtastic for girls along with Fisher Price's Rock Star Mickey featured in plush and new Wheels lines including Wall Tracks and Video Racer," the firm said. "Top-line comparisons are relatively easy against last year's disappointing 2.3% gain and we expect upside to estimates based upon a stronger top line than we have projected." The majority of analysts covering Mattel are bullish with 13 of 17 rating the stock at strong buy (9) or buy (4), and the median 12-month price target at $32, implying potential upside of roughly 15% from current prices. Year-to-date, Mattel shares have bucked the broad market, rising nearly 10%. The stock closed at X on Thursday, still within shouting distance of its 52-week high of $28.49 set on July 15.
Friday brings a pretty big slab of economic data. Leading off are retail sales and export and import prices for September at 8:30 a.m. ET. That's followed by the first read on consumer sentiment in October from the University of Michigan at 9:55 a.m., and then some old news, business inventories for August at 10 a.m. Retail sales will get some attention, and the consensus is for an increase of 0.6%, while Briefing.com is more bullish, forecasting a 1.2% rise, thanks mostly to a spike in auto sales. Excluding autos, the consensus goes down to growth of 0.3% and Briefing.com's view drops to positive 0.4%. Consumer sentiment is seen ticking up to 60.0, nothing to get too excited about, while business inventories are expected to rise 0.4%. Stocks are still digesting the huge moves in the past week or so with the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq all rebounding more than 10% off their 2011 intraday lows set on Oct. 4. If the progress continues apace in Europe, the action should take its cue from earnings over the next few weeks, and likely be a bit less yo-yo in nature, as evidenced by the pullback in the VIX to around 30. -- Written by Michael Baron in New York.