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What: I'm pretty sure I could hear Hercules Offshore
So what: Hercules' stock has been on a massive run, taking it up well more than 100% since late last year. Today, shares were up on better-than-expected earnings. On the bottom line, after adjusting for a big noncash impairment charge, Hercules' fourth-quarter loss narrowed significantly from last year, improving from $0.23 per share to $0.03. Analysts had expected a per-share loss of $0.11. Revenue also surprised to the upside, as the $172 million tally edged out the $170 million Wall Street estimate.
Now what: While smaller losses are certainly better than larger losses, investors no doubt want to see a bottom line at Hercules that is, as AC/DC would put it, back in black. Management gave a relatively reassuring outlook, as it noted that regulators may be ready to relax the iron fist when it comes to drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico. While it's unlikely that means permits will start flowing like light, sweet crude, it would be a relief for Hercules after the Macondo incident seized up drilling activity in the region last year.
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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.