Why Agilent Technologies Inc. Shares Surged

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 Agilent Technologies (NYSE: A  )  -- a provider of bio-analytic tests and electronic measurement solutions to the life sciences, communications, and electronics industry -- jumped as much as 10% after its fourth-quarter earnings results topped Wall Street's expectations.

So what: For the quarter, Agilent reported a 3% decline in revenue to $1.72 billion, hurt by its electronics segment where sales fell 14% year-over-year. Its adjusted profit fell as well to $0.81 per share from $0.86 in the year prior. Despite results that were weaker than last year, both figures still managed to top Wall Street's expectations, which had called for $0.76 in EPS on $1.71 billion in sales. Looking toward the next fiscal year, Agilent provided a forecast which calls for $6.95 billion to $7.15 billion in sales and EPS of $3.03-$3.33, more or less in line with the current consensus estimate.

Now what: I refer to Agilent as a perfect tug-of-war candidate because there are so many catalysts on paper that should send this company higher, but an equal amount of real-world obstacles that are holding it back. On one hand, any sort of bio-analytic testing in the health care industry should see a big demand spike as baby boomers age and as Obamacare rolls out. Conversely, though, federal budget cuts are putting a strain on domestic diagnostic spending, which could very well stymie Agilent's growth for the next couple of years. For now, I'm sticking to the sidelines, but Agilent is a company that I would certainly encourage you to add to your watchlist.

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