Not so fast, Chuckie. The first batch of headlines on Charles Schwab's (NASDAQ:SCHW) fourth-quarter report appear to be glowing endorsements of the company's financial performance.

  • Schwab Net Income More Than Doubles, cites Reuters.
  • Schwab Earnings Jump 150% After $205 Million Tax Benefit, writes MarketWatch.
  • Schwab's Q4 Profit More Than Doubles, claims AP.

Yes, they're perfectly accurate, but since when did we start getting generous with one-time, non-cash tax benefits? Back that out and you will find that Schwab didn't do all that badly. Net income soared 40% to hit $262 million. That amounts to roughly the same $0.21 per share showing that analysts were expecting.

Simply meeting projections may not seem that impressive after rival TD AMERITRADE's (NASDAQ:AMTD) market-thumping performance yesterday. Schwab's 34% in pre-tax profit margins from continuing operations also comes up short against its rival's 45% showing over the same three months.

It's OK, Chuck. The growth is still impressive. Because Schwab is a longtime bellwether of the discount brokerage industry, it's good to know that the company's 6.7 million accounts are smitten with the market and are active participants in today's willing market climate.

Schwab's customers aren't the only ones wheeling and dealing. The discounting pioneer has been doing a little bit of internal churning itself. This past quarter found the company agreeing to sell its U.S. Trust wealth management subsidiary to Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) in an all-cash deal for $3.3 billion, while acquiring The 401(k) Company from Nationwide Finance Services (NYSE:NFS) in a smaller $115 million deal to grow its retirement planning presence.

Earlier this month, Schwab completed the acquisition of Global Real Analytics to help it manage a new Schwab-branded real estate mutual fund.

So Schwab has clearly been busy, but you should never be too busy to issue an incomplete press release the way it did this morning. It was quick to point to its $0.37 a share showing if you tack on the non-cash benefit, but left it to the reporting community to work the simple math to arrive at the more accurate $0.21 per share mark before the favorable charge.

You're doing just fine, Schwab. Go ahead and shout it from the rooftops next time.

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Schwab is a Stock Advisor recommendation, and Bank of America is an Income Investor recommendation.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been trading exclusively through discount brokers since 1990 but does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.