Despite robust earnings reports, credit card companies' stocks are in a slide that is beginning to look like an investor panic.

"It is a vicious cycle feeding on itself," said David Hochstim, an analyst at Bear, Stearns & Co. "It will become difficult for investors who are concerned about short-term performance to invest in a lot of stocks when the stocks are not going up."Though MBNA Corp., Capital One Financial Corp., Providian Financial Corp., and Metris Cos. recently reported fourth-quarter earnings gains ranging from 25% to 67% a share, an American Banker index that comprises just these four companies has dropped more than 20% in the last month alone.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.