There’s a hidden way to get detailed financial data on publicly traded U.S. banks days before the companies release their earnings. The information is accurate, free, and -- most important -- totally legal.
The source is the federal government, which publishes snapshots of banks’ financial pictures, known as call reports, on a hard-to-find website. Banks, sometimes days later, distribute similar information in earnings releases that are followed closely by investors, analysts and the media. On those occasions when call reports are published before earnings, savvy stock-pickers can glean useful information before other investors.