MF Global Shares Got Crushed: What You Need to Know

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 global financial broker MF Global (NYS: MF) were getting hammered by investors today, losing as much as 51% after the company announced fiscal second-quarter results.

So what: Analysts, on average, were expecting MF Global to report an adjusted second-quarter profit per share of $0.06 on $301 million in revenue. The company wowed onlookers by revealing a $0.09 per-share loss on just $206 million in revenue. That's a pretty hefty whiff.

The loss represents a significant slip-up on MF Global's path to trying to become a broader investment-banking competitor in the mold of CEO Jon Corzine's former employer, Goldman Sachs (NYS: GS) , or Morgan Stanley (NYS: MS) . At the same time, the loss is particularly worrisome in light of Moody's (NYS: MCO) credit-rating cut yesterday, which brought the company's rating to Baa2, a rating that skirts "junk" status.

Now what: Financial companies like MF Global don't report smooth earnings, and it's to be expected that there will be significant peaks and valleys due to market conditions. So should investors jump in now while the rest of the market is overly pessimistic about the company? At the levels shares are trading at, there's definitely a case to be made. However, the direction Corzine is taking MF Global in means that more risk will be introduced. That could mean a big payoff if big-picture execution is better than what we're seeing this quarter, but it could mean disaster for the already-highly leveraged company if it's mismanaged.

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