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: Mr. Market has gone nuts again. Shares of American Equity Life (Nasdaq: AEL) suffered a staggering 15% loss early only to return to about even as of this writing.

So what: Blame traders who couldn't decide whether this annuity underwriter reported good or awful fourth-quarter results. On the one hand, revenue and net investment income improved. On the other, per-share GAAP profit fell to $0.41 from $0.48 in the year-ago period.

Now what: What matters more? I'd guess revenue and more specifically investment income. We know from years studying Berkshire Hathaway that underwriting profits tend to be a small part of the equation when it comes to insurance earnings. Judging by the data at Yahoo! Finance, it appears analysts were expecting American Equity to post $266.06 million in net investment income in the fourth quarter. What they got instead was $277.9 million, which suggests the early sell-off was, indeed, unjustified.

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