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 Central Garden & Pet Company (NASDAQ:CENT) were looking like man's best friend today, gaining as much as 12% after reporting first-quarter earnings.

So what: The pet-and-garden-care retailer topped bottom-line estimates, saying its net loss narrowed to $0.26 a share, better than expectations of -$0.31, but sales still fell 1%, to $291 million, worse than estimates of $302.8 million. Due to the seasonal nature of its business, the company generally reports a loss at this time of year. CEO John Ranelli said the first quarter "showed some improvement," as its focus on fundamentals was beginning to yield results. Sales in its Lawn and Garden segment improved, but fell in the Pet category.

Now what: The jump in share price shows how weak expectations are for Central Garden & Pet, as this was not a particularly impressive report. Coming off a year where total per-share profit hit just $0.12, the bottom line appears to be moving in the right direction, though the drop in sales is concerning. Improved efficiency meant that gross profit actually increased in the quarter, but investors should pay close attention to sales in its next report as the first quarter of the year is where the company makes its money. 

What's set to win in 2014?
There's a huge difference between a good stock and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it's one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report, "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

Jeremy Bowman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Compare Brokers