Why Shares of Career Education Corp. 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 Career Education Corp.  (NASDAQ: CECO  ) were looking smarter today, gaining as much as 19% after its fourth-quarter earnings report beat expectations.

So what: It was not exactly a strong quarter for the for-profit educator, but it topped estimates on both the top and bottom lines, posting a per-share loss of $0.29 against the consensus of $0.49, while revenue slipped 18.5% to $247.1 million, ahead of expectations at $241.44 million. Both new-student and overall enrollment declined 16%, but the company did see improvements in some areas, with new-student enrollment growth in three of its schools and a 49% jump in its conversion rate of prospective students to new students. 

Now what: CEO Scott Steffey said Career Education had made "solid operational progress in the turnaround of the company," adding that "early results in 2014 are encouraging." The stock nearly doubled last October after the company sold its European assets, and it seems to be making progress with its cost equation, having narrowed its adjusted loss from a year ago. Still, with double-digit enrollment declines and further losses expected, it's hard to find a reason to cheer Career Education. 

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