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What: Shares of Stone Energy (NYSE: SGY) rallied more than 12% in early trading and remain up 7% as of this writing thanks to a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit performance.

So what: Depletion, depreciation, and amortization costs fell by $10 million in the fourth quarter, allowing Stone to book $0.49 in per-share earnings. Analysts had been calling for $0.45. The beat justified the optimism of big-money buyers who've pushed the shares more than 100% higher over the past six months.

Now what: And yet the rally may not be over. Management backed its earlier production guidance for 2011. Stone Energy expects $425 million in capital outlays in order to produce 200 million to 220 million cubic feet equivalent of gas per day.

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