What happened

Shares of robotic surgery specialist Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) jumped Wednesday in response to new guidance the company issued for its fiscal fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 sales. The stock is up 2.8% as of 2:40 p.m. EST.  

So what

Although official earnings results aren't due out  until Jan. 21, Intuitive has a good enough handle on the numbers already to be able to report that its Q4 sales were about $1.33 billion, or 4% better than reported one year ago.

With procedure volumes and deliveries of da Vinci systems depressed by the pandemic, full-year sales are going to be down -- about 3% lower than in 2019 at $4.36 billion. Nevertheless, TheFly.com notes that both these numbers are ahead of consensus, and that's probably why investors are responding positively to what would otherwise seem rather disappointing numbers.

For Q4, says TheFly, analysts had been predicting sales would be only $1.23 billion, while for all of 2020, sales were expected to be only $4.27 billion.

Stock up glowing green arrow climbs on a stock screen

Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

Intuitive Surgical did not tell investors what kinds of earnings to expect. But for what it's worth, analysts had been forecasting earnings down about 11% for the quarter at $3.09 per share, and down a much steeper 24% at $9.66 for the year. Based on Intuitive's confirmation that sales were better than expected, however, you can probably assume that earnings will beat those estimates as well.

And if that happens -- fingers crossed -- come Jan. 21, there's good reason to expect Intuitive Surgical stock to pop at least once more.

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.