Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of communications services provider Level 3 Communications (Nasdaq: LVLT) dialed down as much as 10% in intraday trading today after reporting fourth-quarter earnings results. 

So what: At least compared to expectations, the fourth-quarter results actually looked pretty good. Total revenue was down from the fourth quarter of 2009, but the $921 million reported was above what analysts were looking for. The company's net loss per share -- if you exclude a $0.06 per-share benefit from a tax adjustment -- improved from $0.11 in 2009 to $0.09 in 2010. That per-share loss of $0.09 was also a penny better than the average analyst estimate.

Now what: But of course the stock market cares less about "what have you done for me lately?" and more about "what will you do for me tomorrow?" So the fact that Level 3's management projected negative free cash flow for all of 2011 seemed to spook investors, even though the company is projecting growth in revenue from its core network services and EBITDA.

It shouldn't be all that surprising that Level 3 will be making substantial capital investments in the coming year, though. After all, at the end of last year, it joined Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM) and Limelight Networks (Nasdaq: LLNW) as the primary content delivery network for Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX). So the real question for Level 3 investors shouldn't be if it'll burn cash in 2011, but whether the business that it's growing into is going to be worth the investment.

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Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool or on his RSS feed. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.