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: "Tetra Technologies posts surprise Q1 loss," blared Reuters this morning. Meanwhile, over at Briefing.com, the story was a little different: "TETRA Tech beats by $0.04, beats on revs." So … which is it, mainstream media? Good news or bad news for TETRA Technologies (NYSE: TTI)?

So what: Actually, it's both. According to the press release, TETRA's continuing operations booked a $0.03-per-share loss -- but this was caused by a series of "special charges" that subtracted a dime per share from the net. Back out these charges for "oil and gas property impairments and excess decommissioning costs," and the company would have earned $0.07 per share -- flat against last year's take. That appears to be more than Wall Street was looking for, and it explains why the stock gained 11% on the news.

Now what: Wall Street sees 15% long-term earnings growth in TETRA's future. Sounds good, but I've never yet been able to figure out how the Street can look at a company that lost money over the past year and calculate from that how fast the nonexistent profits are going to grow. Best case, if we (1) assume the Street's right that TETRA will earn $0.63 this year, (2) give the company credit for money it won't earn for another nine months or so, and (3) apply the 15% growth rate to that … well, I'm afraid that still leaves TETRA selling for a forward P/E of 22, and overpriced for the growth rate.

My advice: If you're a TETRA shareholder, and your wallet's bursting at the seams from stuffing all today's winnings into it, now would be a great time to take out some cash and put it in the bank.

Analyst estimates notwithstanding, how will TETRA's year play out in reality? Add it to your watchlist and find out.

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares of, nor is he short, any company named above.  

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