Not All Lousy Earnings Are Alike
By Michael Sivy

(MONEY Magazine) – You're likely to be seeing more headlines about crummy earnings. With the economy growing more than 4% a year, how can business be so bad? It's not. Accounting rules have changed. Chief among the new ones is that the value of employee stock options will have to be deducted from quarterly results. By mid-2006 all companies will fall under the rule. Among those that do now (it depends on when a company's fiscal year starts) is Cisco, which reported a slight decline in earnings last quarter. Absent rule changes, earnings would have risen 15%.

Bottom line: Don't overreact to a headline bemoaning low earnings. Go to the company's website and read the earnings report, paying attention to year-over-year comparisons of earnings from continuing operations and to what the company says accounting for options did to its profits.