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: Never underestimate the power of low expectations. Hanesbrands (NYSE: HBI) was supposed to earn $0.33 this past quarter. Instead, it reported earnings of $0.49 per share this morning -- a 32% rise year over year. The stock promptly popped, rising as high as 11% from yesterday's close.

So what: With investors all-consumed with worry over the rising cost of cotton prices, no one expected Hanesbrands to earn so much this year. And yes, management noted that its cotton costs were up, 60% higher than what it was paying at this time last year. But the company managed to push through price increases to offset its higher costs, and it kept profit growing.

Now what: Hanes is promising investors it will earn about $2.80 a share this year, giving the stock an 11 times ratio to its current stock price. That doesn't look awfully expensive on a projected 13.5% long-term grower like Hanes. Indeed, rival and Victoria's Secret owner Limited Brands (NYSE: LTD) is expected to grow slower, yet its stock costs more. Worse still, one of the few areas of weakness Hanes mentioned this morning was in the category of "women's intimates."

Whatever you think about Hanes, I'd say its results make Limited look decidedly unappealing.

Who will win the underwear wars? Add Limited Brands to your Watchlist.Now add Hanesbrands, too. Compare and contrast.

The Fool owns shares of Limited Brands, but Fool contributor Rich Smith does not have any position in any company named above. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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