Why Mueller Water's Shares Jumped

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 water infrastructure products specialist Mueller Water (NYS: MWA) spouted up today, gaining as much as 10% in intraday trading before closing with an 8% gain.

So what: It's been a pretty rough run for Mueller shareholders over the past few years, so at this point they'll take what they can get. In the first quarter, the company still showed a bottom-line loss, but the $0.01 per-share loss was better than the $0.04 loss that Wall Street had expected. Sales grew 7% from last year to $252 million.

Now what: Analysts had been expecting that Mueller would still be unprofitable for its full fiscal year ending in September -- there's a chance that could change with the better-than-expected first-quarter results. Either way, the expectation is that by fiscal 2013, the company will be profitable again, and this quarter does make it seem as if the company is continuing to move toward that goal.

This is a heavily indebted company that's really still in turnaround mode. In theory, there's a lot to like about Mueller as a play on the United States' aging water infrastructure, but to date at least, that thesis hasn't played out so well. Moves like the sale of its U.S. Pipe subsidiary are helping Mueller get back on the right track, but it'd be hard to think of this company as a slam-dunk investment.

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