Lazard Shares Surged: 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 investment bank Lazard (NYS: LAZ) were soaring today, gaining as much as 26% in intraday trading after the company reported third-quarter results.

So what: Third-quarter adjusted earnings for Lazard actually missed analysts' estimates, coming in at $0.39 versus the anticipated $0.42. However, the company's financial advisory business -- particularly merger and acquisition advising -- was stronger than many investors had expected, and seems to be driving a lot of the optimism today. The strength is particularly notable because it was broadly a tougher quarter for advisory businesses in general and bigger banks like Goldman Sachs (NYS: GS) and JPMorgan Chase (NYS: JPM) saw softer results.

While the third-quarter release was no doubt the primary driver for Lazard's stock today, it's likely that it also gained some steam from the good news out of Europe. Lazard has a strong presence in Europe and roughly a third of its 2010 revenue came from France, the U.K., and the rest of Western Europe.

Now what: The smaller investment banks like Lazard can end up having more volatile results than their larger brethren because of their focus on advising and the tendency of that business to be lumpy and cyclical. However, with a key on the word "smaller," companies like Lazard have much more room to increase market share -- even in leaner times. Also, broadly, the smaller, advisory-focused shops don't take the massive financial risks that got so many large investment banks into trouble.

I hate chasing a stock rallying like this, but for investors who haven't had Lazard on their radar, it could be a good time to take a closer look.

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