What happened

Shares of NuVasive, Inc. (NASDAQ:NUVA), a spinal-surgery device manufacturer, popped as high as 9.8% Wednesday morning before settling back down to an 8.1% gain as of 3:07 p.m. A mixed third-quarter earnings report is fueling hope that the company will shift its recently sluggish growth rate back into high gear.

So what

NuVasive served up a cold dish of 3% total sales growth in the third quarter, but management claims adjusting for storm disruptions would raise that figure to 6%. Although U.S. sales fell 3.5% to $201 million, the company reported an impressive 48.1% surge in sales from its international segment.

Person facing upward sloping arrows drawn on a chalkboard.

Image source: Getty Images.

This was the fourth straight quarter that revenue from NuVasive's international operations rose by 20% or more. At $46.4 million, the segment has become large enough to push the entire company forward even if U.S. sales continue to flounder.

Investors were also pleased with plans to take advantage of the stock's recently depressed price and authorized $100 million in stock buybacks.

Now what

If executed at recent prices, the share buybacks would lower NuVasive's outstanding share count by roughly 3.4%. That will send a larger slice of future profits to shareholders, and some impressive cost-cutting following a major executive suite shake-up should go a long way to raise those profits further.

In the first nine months of the year, sales, marketing, and administrative expenses ate into 53% of total sales. A year ago that figure was 57%, and it's falling fast. In fact, sales, marketing, and administrative expenses actually fell 4.6% during the latest quarter compared to the same period a year ago.

Cory Renauer has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends NuVasive. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.