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What: Shares of specialty materials supplier Allegheny Technologies Incorporated (NYSE:ATI) popped as much as 19.9% today after reporting second-quarter earnings results. At 3:15 p.m. EDT, shares were near their daily high at a 19.5% gain.

So what: Sales fell 21% in the quarter to $810.5 million, and net loss improved from $101.2 million a year ago to $18.8 million, or $0.18 per share. Adjusted for one-time items, the loss was $0.21 per share, but that was a major improvement over the $0.39-per-share loss that analysts expected. 

Management said that commercial aerospace sales increased 3% sequentially, but weak demand in energy markets kept demand for flat-rolled products low. And until that changes, it's likely the company will continue to report losses.

Now what: This is a classic case of beating expectations causing a sharp rise in shares. But keep in mind that low raw-material prices and weak demand in oil and gas will likely continue in flat-rolled products. Amid the losses that have been coming in over the past year, I would like to see some more bottom-line progress before jumping into shares. Beating expectations with another loss isn't enough to prove that the business is turning around, so I'll stay cautious on shares today.

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