There's something to be said for the power of lowered expectations.

When automobile wheelwright Superior Industries (NYSE:SUP) reported its results on Tuesday, the numbers looked bleak. Fortunately for Fool readers, we were expecting that. Fortunately for Superior investors, it seems everyone else was, too. As a result, when Superior reported that even though sales increased just 3% and the company still lost money, Wall Street just shrugged and snipped only a half-hearted 2% off of the company's share price.

The news wasn't bad. Yes, wheel shipments were down 9% and, yes, gross margins shrank as well (ouch), but Superior was able to at least pass on some of their increased costs to customers. Hey, I only said it wasn't all bad.

Moreover, the quarter's decline in units shipped was smaller than the year's 12% slide. Similarly, the rise in revenue was better than the year's 2% decline in revenue. Hardly news to inspire back flips, but at this point, expectations have gotten so low that it was apparently good enough.

Backdating bites
Investors have gotten so apathetic over Superior that even unexpected bad news doesn't seem to faze them anymore. Ordinarily, when you think of the stock options backdating scandal, highfliers like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), J2 Global (NASDAQ:JCOM), and Activision (NASDAQ:ATVI) come to mind. After all, for a stock to be backdated to before a run-up, the stock must at some point have ... run up. But stock market laggards such as Home Depot (NYSE:HD), Apollo Group (NASDAQ:APOL), and Corinthian (NASDAQ:COCO) are involved in this too. And so, too, is Superior Industries.

In an SEC NT-10K filing with the SEC just before earnings, the company advised that because of shareholder allegations (in the form of lawsuits) that certain company officials backdated their stock options, Superior needs to conduct an investigation. While so doing, it cannot finalize its 10-K filing, and so has been forced to delay its submission.

That's a real shame, because it means we're forced to rely on the exceedingly skimpy "balance sheet" summary that Superior included in its earnings release. Lumping together such important metrics as inventories and accounts receivable with all other "current assets," it's impossible for us to determine at this time just how well Superior is collecting on its debts and managing its working capital. All we really know is that current assets today are 4% lower than they were a year ago.

That sounds like good news, sure. But as Superior investors know, it's much safer to keep your expectations low.

Find further Superior analysis in:

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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. The Fool has a disclosure policy.