Why Stewart Enterprises' Shares Popped

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 cemetery and funeral expert Stewart Enterprises (NAS: STEI) were getting boosted by investors today as shares rose as much as 12% in intraday trading after the company reported second-quarter results.

So what: The headline here -- as is the case with most post-earnings pops -- is that Stewart's quarterly results were better than what investors had expected. For the quarter ending in April, the death-care specialist managed $0.13 in adjusted, per-share earnings, topping the $0.09 average estimate from Wall Street analysts. That bottom line represented a 30% jump over the same quarter last year, even as sales grew just 2.3%.

Now what: CEO Thomas Kitchen lauded the strong performance of all aspects of Stewart's operations -- cemetery property sales were up while gross profit increased, funeral-service profitability was improved thanks to cost controls, and preneed funeral sales were up 18% year over year. "In fact," Kitchen said, the first two quarters of 2012 have been "the best start to a fiscal year in preneed sales in over five years."

Whether or not the same pace keeps up in the quarters ahead, this steady, long-term performer appears poised to continue plugging forward.

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