NEW YORK ( Real Money) -- You wonder why investors get confused? How about this? On Saturday people awoke to two lead stories in two different newspapers. The first, The Wall Street Journal, blares "Bank Earnings Worry Investors."The second, The New York Times, says "Solid Results at 2 Banks Bode Well for Industry." Which is right? Let's continue for a paragraph to find out. The Journal writes:
Two of the nation's largest bans released first-quarter results on Friday that disappointed investors, underlining the industry's struggled with a sluggish economic recovery and the long hangover from the financial crisis.The Times?
Revenue is back. Hard hit by new regulations and a sluggish economy, banks have struggled to revive top-line performance since the financial crisis, even as profits improved. But two of the nation's largest lenders, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo, reported strong revenue growth on Friday, a surprise that could bode well for the rest of the industry and the broader economy.To me, the issue is pretty clear-cut: the Journal took its judgment from the horrid action in the stocks, not thinking that perhaps all stocks were bad on Friday. The Times took its judgment from the facts, from how the companies really did, and didn't simply look at the share price and pronounce victory or defeat. I spent the weekend going over the conference calls and the post notes for Wells Fargo ( WFC) and JPMorgan ( JPM), and I come away convinced that if we weren't worried about Europe, specifically the Spanish 10-year on Thursday, both bank stocks would have been higher. That's right, higher. There was nothing in JPMorgan's report that was wrong except the fact that the government and regulatory agencies worldwide continue to hold a fairly tight rein over what the bank can do with its capital. You could argue that there was some line item that might not have been up to snuff, maybe a credit card gain here or a reserve for litigation there. In general, though, the bank is growing and stronger than it has been in years, certainly stronger than the last time it was here before going much lower.