Why Wireless Carriers' Shares Skyrocketed

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 wireless service providers were shooting for the stars today after strong earnings reports ignited investor enthusiasm. Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) shares jumped more than 19%, but they were hardly alone, as MetroPCS (NYS: PCS) soared 37%, Clearwire (NAS: CLWR) climbed 12%, and Leap Wireless (NAS: LEAP) , well, it leapt 12%.

So what: Sprint and MetroPCS, the biggest gainers of the day, both rocketed after reporting better-than-expected results. For Sprint, the bottom line continues to be a bugaboo, as its per-share loss hit $0.46. That's a good deal worse than the $0.28 from last year, as well as the $0.41 that analysts were expecting. Revenue, on the other hand, was $8.8 billion, up 6%, and ahead of the $8.7 billion that analysts had called for. Investors are obviously taking the revenue gains as a sign that some of the actions that Sprint has been taking are paying off.

MetroPCS also saw a 6% year-over-year increase in its revenue, but it managed a much better showing on the bottom line. Earnings per share clocked in at $0.41, up from $0.23 last year, and absolutely crushing the $0.21 average estimate from Wall Street.

Now what: Clearwire and Leap were largely riding the strong tide created by Sprint and MetroPCS today. Clearwire, however, reported its own results after the closing bell, and could be in line to give up some of today's gains. Revenue for the 4G broadband specialist came in at $317 million, up 8% from last year's pro forma revenue (which adjusts some quirks for that quarter's wholesale revenue), but it missed the average analyst estimate of $321 million. Though Clearwire boosted its full-year outlook, the midpoint of its new $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion expected range is still below the $1.29 billion that analysts were looking for.

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