What happened

Navios Maritime (NYSE: NM) shareholders enjoyed a rollicking good time last month, as shares of the dry bulk ocean shipping-and-logistics specialist surged 39%. But all good things must come to an end, and today, Navios shares plummeted 11% (as of 12:30 p.m. EST).

So what

Earnings appear to be to blame for the decline. This morning, Navios reported its fiscal Q4 and full-year 2016 earnings, and it will take us a bit of doing to unpack them. Here goes.

For the quarter, Navios recorded $0.25 per share in "basic earnings." This profit, however, included gains from "debt extinguishment" (i.e. the accounting was tweaked to reflect the fact that Navios bought back some of its debt), and also from a "Series G and Series H Exchange Program" (more of the same). Without those accounting gains, the company would have incurred a $0.28-per share loss for the quarter. Revenues for the quarter were $99.5 million.

Lacking analyst guidance to judge from, it's hard to say whether Wall Street would consider this an "earnings beat" or not. Objectively speaking, though, Navios's numbers show a decline from last year's $116 million in Q4 revenue -- but a big improvement in the year-ago quarter's $0.61 per share in losses.

Beached cargo ship.

Navios stock hits the cold, hard reality of a miserable market for shipping dry bulk. Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

Regardless of how Wall Street reacts to the numbers, investors, in general, seem less than thrilled as they aggressively bid down Navios Maritime stock today. The sentiment may be spreading, too. Industry bellwether DryShips (NASDAQ:DRYS) is seeing its stock decline more than 17% in Wednesday trading, despite there being no news of particular note to DryShips.

But why are investors objecting so strongly, even if it took management some clever accounting work to arrive at a profit this morning?

Honestly, I'm at a loss. While Navios' business is clearly not in the pink of health, the company increased its fleet utilization rate by 30 basis points (year over year), to 99.6%. Its TCE -- "time charter equivalent" or "voyage and time charter revenues less voyage expenses" -- grew 4.4% in comparison to Q4 2015. And the company improved its balance sheet by buying back debt, and was thereby able to report a profit for the quarter.

If Navios' news wasn't exactly great, well, it looks as if it's as good as could be expected given the state of the dry bulk shipping market today. I think Navios Maritime actually did just fine.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.