What happened

Shares of Windstream Holdings (NASDAQ:WIN) rose on Friday, surging as much as 19.2% higher as of 1:20 p.m. EST. The stock is finding its bearings after a tumultuous Thursday, when a hard-to-interpret earnings report first sent share prices 13% higher. The gains didn't last, and Windstream closed Thursday's session 13% lower instead.

So what

The fourth-quarter report showed sales rising 14.5% year over year to land at $1.5 billion. The year-ago period's GAAP net loss of $0.94 per share increased to a $10.26 loss per share this time. Adjusted OIBDA income -- a non-GAAP measure that starts with operating income and excludes depreciation, amortization, and many other non-cash line items -- declined 2% to $357 million.

Windstream's revenue came in just above Wall Street's consensus estimates but analysts did not provide any earnings estimates that would be comparable to the company's preferred reporting formats and huge one-time tax charges. Management acknowledged that fourth-quarter profits fell short of their own projections.

All of these details arrived early Thursday morning, and Windstream's share prices have been whipsawing all over the place since then -- on heavy trading volume. The only fresh news on Friday came from two analyst firms lowering their price targets on the stock.

Young man pressing his palms to his temples, staring in disbelief at his laptop screen.

Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

All told, the positive market action on Friday has only balanced out the previous day's 13% lower closing price. The regional telecommunications company remains a business in deep distress. Windstream is chasing revenue growth by acquisition while attempting to pay down $10.3 billion of long-term debt and lease liabilities with free cash flows near the break-even point.

None of this makes any sense, and I can't blame Windstream investors for being confused by these results. Share prices have fallen 79% over the last 52 weeks, and there's no real reason why the plunge shouldn't continue -- today's surge notwithstanding.

Anders Bylund has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.