These three companies just didn't live up to Mr. Market's expectations last week. Whether the target was set by the company's own management, by Wall Street analysts, or by the market at large, that miss can have serious consequences, and share prices can take a serious slide as a result.

Sometimes an earnings stumble is a signal to sell, but digging in the dirt is also a good way to find turnaround candidates while they're getting beaten down. Today, you better brace for verse aplenty, all original. That's all.

Parabolic sales
Hit invisible ceiling;
Costs stayed mostly fixed.
Promises, oh promises!
IT backbone bit our backs.

-- Anders Bylund

Gomen nasai to Overstock (NASDAQ:OSTK) CEO Patrick Byrne for my going Japanese on his company in this tanka. His degrees in Asian studies should let him hit back with a better one of his own, though. Overstock delivered another disappointing quarter, even compared to lowered Wall Street expectations. There was a net loss of $0.91 per share, worse than a widely expected $0.83-per-share loss, and $0.82 of red ink per share last year.

Part of that pain could be passed over, as the company booked a $3.6 million loss from discontinued operations of its travel business. However, Overstock's lack of accurate growth expectations led to extreme overbuilding in infrastructure. Additionally, as the revenue rocket ran out of fuel, management scrambled to get back into the hyper-growth curve by boosting marketing expenditures by excessive amounts, which ate away at margins.

Byrne claims to have found an Internet trend that he missed before, and now wants to exploit that niche to refuel his ride. For competitive reasons, he won't say what it is, though. That leaves us all to wonder what's up Dr. Patrick's sleeve.

Is it the rise of online video? No, even YouTube owner Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) isn't making money that way yet. A more likely candidate is the social networking boom -- Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) can attest to that power, and so can privately held, or Wikipedia.

I'll keep an eye out for unusual advertising for the O. In the meantime, we should expect another couple of quarters of lousy year-over-year comparisons -- until the first of the post-disaster periods roll around. This former Motley Fool Rule Breaker has a lot to prove.

There was a drug maker from Dublin;
Wall Street thought that its sales growth was troubling.
"You can't please us," they said,
"Expect harsh words ahead --
No matter how fast sales are doubling!"

-- Anders Bylund

Then there's the long-running saga of Irish drug researcher Elan (NYSE:ELN). While analyst estimates were mixed, the $0.20 loss per share compares poorly to the forecast average of a loss of $0.14. Although sales of its potential blockbuster drug increased 30% in two months' time, that still wasn't enough to mollify the analysts, since shares fell 8% on the news.

Tysabri, a multiple sclerosis treatment co-developed and co-marketed with American pharma producer Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB), was pulled from the market two years ago because three patients developed a rare and deadly brain disease. Getting the drug back on the market required the development of an extremely conservative monitoring and screening program, but has contributed a great deal to the top-line growth.

These days, Tysabri is a second-line monotherapy treatment used as a last resort for MS patients with life-threatening conditions. Studies have shown that Tysabri delivers superior results in blocking relapses that can result in sudden partial paralysis. With more than 350,000 MS sufferers in the U.S. and 400,000 in the European Union, I anticipate that Elan will generate strong future cash flows, as long as this product continues to act as an effective treatment plan.

Busy browser,
Beaten path;
Weeny widgets,
Wealth of rivals.
Terse, harsh theme says:
"Threats abound! Help!"

-- Anders Bylund

At the end of the road, we find another newsletter pick -- this time, it's current Rule Breakers selection Openwave Systems (NASDAQ:OPWV). The maker of Internet navigation software for cell phones and other portable gadgets reported $71 million in sales and a net loss of $0.20 per share. That's not only worse than last year -- $113 million and a $0.10-per-share profit, respectively -- but also well below management guidance in both cases.

Even at that, we're being generous by excluding $0.15 per share of costs related to options-granting reviews, proxy battles, and corporate restructuring. This has not been a quiet quarter for the browser bumpkin, which is now partly under new management. Activist investor group Harbinger Capital Partners gained a seat on Openwave's board of directors in the proxy battle already mentioned, though the company's investor relations site still lists the old board members, and legal challenges to the election result are flying from both sides.

In any case, CEO Robert Vrij is new, and he says he believes Openwave is facing a sea of market opportunity. I wish him luck leading this increasingly commoditized product line into a brighter future, with competitors like industry titan Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and open-source maverick Opera doing their part to keep this Rule Breaker down. The whole business is officially for sale, but I can't imagine who would buy it.

What? It's May already?
Some of these underperformers are victims of larger circumstances, while others might have only themselves to blame. It's up to you to decide which down-on-their-luck companies should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and which really are stuck in the mud. Come back next week, and we'll take a look at another batch of mishaps and disappointments. It'll be fun and educational, though it will most certainly not rhyme as much as this edition did. Farewell, National Poetry Month; I'll miss you.

Further Foolish Reading:

Seeking great deals on unfairly punished stocks? Philip Durell and his merry band of Fools at the Motley Fool Inside Value newsletter service are standing by to help you find great stocks at ridiculously low markdowns. Try a 30-day trial subscription to see whether bargain-hunting is right for you. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick; Biogen and Yahoo! Stock Advisor share; Openwave a Rule Breaker.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is an Elan shareholder but holds no other position in the companies discussed this week. In some cases, that's just 'cause he can't stop babbling about his favorite stocks long enough to stake a claim, though. The Fool has a disclosure policy, and you can see Anders' current holdings for yourself.