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Yum! Bucks the Trend Before It Starts

Michael Lewis
October 10, 2012

For the past week or two, we've incessantly heard about the lousy third-quarter results to pour in, which will then trigger a down market. It's only the beginning of earnings season, so there's plenty of time for an upset -- oh, wait, a major international company has already beaten EPS estimates and shows healthy growth. How come people pay so much attention to market predictions but then never seem to notice when they're wrong?

Reality bite
Analyst estimates, by their very nature, are not something many Fools support. Being estimates, they shouldn't hold that much water with investors, but for some reason when a company comes in over or under, the stock bounces around. But they exist, so we deal with them. The market has been biting its nails because of analysts' predictions of widespread contractions among major public companies. The 1%-3% shrink isn't too substantial, if not irrelevant, but it's enough to have investors spooked.

Luckily, we have a few early reporters that have already stood up to the man. Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM  ) posted a stellar third quarter. Top-line revenue missed by $70 million, but the bottom line picked up the slack with an impressive 22% profit growth. Same-store sales posted a 6% gain as well. As if to laugh in the face of doomsday analysts and pundits, the company raised guidance for the end of the year.

Given that Yum! is a very internationally oriented company, this doesn't say too much about the strength or weakness of the U.S. economy, but I'll take what I can get. The company opened 192 new stores in China during the quarter. And even though that double-digit growth got its boost from overseas, U.S. performance wasn't too shabby. Do