M.D.C. Shares Popped: What You Need to Know

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Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Denver-based homebuilder M.D.C. Holdings (NYS: MDC) were looking solid to investors today, as they boosted the stock as much as 11% in intraday trading before it closed with a 9.8% gain.

So what: What do you really expect out of a homebuilder right now? If you answered "not much," then it's easy to understand why M.D.C.'s not-quite-as-bad-as-expected fourth quarter led to such a big pop in its stock. For the quarter, the company managed a loss of "just" $0.40 per share on revenue of $247 million. On the bottom line, that's notably better than last year when the fourth quarter ended with a $0.65-per-share loss. It also topped the $0.46 loss that Wall Street analysts were expecting.

Now what: M.D.C. CEO Larry Mizel pointed out that if you ignore debt extinguishment and "land-related" charges, the company would have been profitable during the quarter. That's definitely a positive for a company in such a downtrodden industry, but an even bigger test of whether the company's efforts are paying off will come in the year ahead as M.D.C. looks to achieve full-year profitability. Wall Street analysts currently expect the company to notch a $0.57-per-share loss for 2012.

Want to keep up to date on M.D.C. Holdings?Add it to your watchlist.

At the time this article was published Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of M.D.C. Holdings. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.Fool contributorMatt Koppenhefferhas no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting hisCAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter,@KoppTheFool, or onFacebook. The Fool'sdisclosure policyprefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.

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