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Despite Goldman, Earnings STILL a Good Sign

Good news or bad news: negotiations over Greece's debt crisis (remember that?) have been delayed...because the airspaces have been closed due to the Iceland volcanic eruption.

Don't let the Goldman story, as important as it is for some financial firms, distract you from the main story: earnings are getting better.

Citigroup reported a sizeable beat on the top and bottom line, largely due to big gains in Securities and Banking (more than doubled to $8 billion from $3.3 billion), a 16 percent decline in net credit losses, a RELEASE of reserves for loan losses, and lower expenses.

We now have Citi, JPMorgan and Bank of America all reporting earnings better than expected in the financial sector.

The problem now: a lot of this improvement is already priced into the stocks.

The battle that matters is the one over financial regulation: banks had traded like any regulation would be manageable to their bottom lines; they now face a much more serious threat. Remember, much of the earnings gains in the S&P 500 that is anticipated this year will be coming from financial firms; while estimating the impact of financial reform is somewhat futile at this point, it's clear that the odds of a more serious impact on the bottom line has gone up since Friday.

Elsewhere:

1) Halliburton reported earnings 3 cents above expectations, revenue in line. North American operations seem to have shown improvement; rig counts were up, and there are more opportunities for "pricing improvement."

But watch out for continuing weak natural gas prices: if this continues there will certainly be pressure on HAL to cut drilling prices.

2) Phillips , the Dutch electronics giant, said they were "increasingly confident" they could meet their EBITA profitability target. This morning, they reported earnings above expectations. Sales were 5.68 billion, 11.4 percent above the same period last year.

3) Lilly , reported earnings of $1.18, 7 cents above consensus, but stock is trading down as guidance for the full year of $4.40-$4.55 is below consensus of $4.74. Lilly took a charge related to healt-care reform.

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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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