Last month, infant apparel retailer Children's Place (NASDAQ:PLCE) gave some good news to its investors, when its March sales results showed impressive, double-digit increases over March 2003. The company also noted that sales were strong over the longer term, with even better results recorded over the February-March period than in March alone.

This morning, the company confirmed that an upswing trend is definitely building, with revenues for the first quarter of 2004 increasing 25% over the prior year to $225.8. New store sales helped that number, sure, but comparable store sales were not too shabby either, increasing 16%, in marked contrast to the 1% decline experienced last year.

And what better way to accessorize 25% revenue growth than to pin on a bit of profit growth as well? That appears to have been Children's Place's thinking, as it traipsed off to school this morning, sporting twice the profits it showed in Q1 2003. (Which was, attentive Fools may recall, precisely what the company predicted one month ago: profits of $0.42 per diluted share, versus analyst estimates of $0.40 per share.)

So why are some reports today saying that Children's Place missed first-quarter forecasts?

'Cause somebody up and moved the goalposts -- that's why. Apparently, analysts were sufficiently miffed at Children's Place showing them up last month, that they upped their estimates to a penny more than the company said it would earn (i.e., to $0.43). Thus, by accurately and honestly predicting its profits, the company doomed itself to miss the quickly updated "consensus forecasts" polled by Thomson's (NYSE:TOC) First Call.

The result: Children's Place's share price dropped 7% today.

In a world where Wall Street punishes a company for providing full disclosure to its shareholders, rather than coyly predicting profits that it can "beat by a penny" (yeah, I'm talking about you, Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO)), it is no wonder that companies like Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), Gillette (NYSE:G), and The Washington Post Co. (NYSE:WPO) no longer give out quarterly earnings estimates.

And there are only two ways this can end, if companies are to act logically in their own self-interests. Either they will join the above troika of "silent" minority companies. Or, they will join the dark side, the companies that intentionally under-promise so that they can more easily overfulfill. Either way, investors lose out, as access to accurate information becomes a thing of the past.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.