Another day, another big Wall Street investment bank that surpasses its quarterly estimate. And in the never-ending game that is Wall Street expectations, it looks like Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) surpassed its estimate by a satisfactory extent, since the stock is up as of the time of this writing.

Total revenue jumped 24%, and that growth was due almost entirely to the basic "Wall Street businesses" of trading and I-banking. Revenue in what the company calls institutional securities jumped 36% this quarter, as strong results in M&A advisory and trading offset lower growth in underwriting. The Discover credit card business also did all right, growing 14% at the top line, but the retail brokerage and asset-management businesses were pretty anemic.

And while Morgan Stanley's earnings were up a decent-looking 17%, it would seem to be paying the price for its structure. For example, Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Lehman (NYSE:LEH) both have larger international operations, and they don't have a large and mediocre retail business weighing them down. So while Morgan Stanley can surf the rising tide in investment banking and trading, I just don't think it is as good as some of its competitors -- at least, not yet.

Perhaps this is just part of the process of digesting years of prior mistakes. After all, you can certainly make the argument that Morgan Stanley is in turnaround mode, and that the management team hasn't yet had enough time to really effect change. Besides, given the current performance of the retail and asset-management businesses, you could also argue that future results are likely to improve (since current performance is already lukewarm).

Still, in an environment where industrywide valuations are creeping higher, I'd rather go with better companies. For me, that means Goldman Sachs or Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC), but I'd still rather put my money into traditional banks or investment bank-traditional bank hybrids.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).