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 Stericycle (Nasdaq: SRCL) leapt as high as $87.65 in early trading Friday (a near-11% jump) as investors voiced full-throated approval of the medical waste manager's fourth-quarter earnings news. Earnings came in 10% higher than last year, at $0.57 per share.

So what: And yet, Stericycle grew its revenues more than 25%. Is it too much to ask that Stericycle post profit gains in line with revenue growth?

Now what: Perhaps it is. Rather than focus on short-term, quarter-long performance (or for that matter, to trust that gains which appear in the first minutes of post-earnings trading will hold firm), let's take a step back and consider Stericycle's full-year performance. Because as it turns out, that was pretty good indeed.

For full-year fiscal 2010, Stericycle posted 22% growth in revenues, and an almost-as-robust 18% rise in profits. The company cleaned up in the cash-profits department as well, producing free cash flow for the year of $277.5 million. Meanwhile, the company's strong 26% operating profit margin continues to outclass fellow trash-gatherers Waste Management (NYSE: WM) and Republic Services (NYSE: RSG) handily.

On the other hand, Stericycle also costs a whole lot more than the competition. Probably more than it's worth even at an 18% growth rate. My guess? That's why the 11% post-earnings pop in stock price didn't last.

Want to monitor Stericycle's performance over the long term? Add it to your watchlist here by clicking here.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of, nor is he short, any company named above. The Fool owns shares of Waste Management. Also, Waste Management is a Motley Fool Inside Value choice, Stericycle is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation, and both Republic Services and Waste Management are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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