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: Shares of food-distribution giant Sysco (NYSE: SYY) were lip-smackin' good today, gaining as much as 15% in intraday trading after a better-than-expected third-quarter earnings report.

So what: When it comes to quarterly earnings reports, it's all about the expectations game and it helps when nobody is expecting big things. For Sysco's fiscal third quarter, Wall Street estimated a 2% drop in earnings per share from last year to $0.41. Adjusting for one-time items, Sysco managed to report $0.46 in quarterly EPS, showing growth of nearly 10% while easily topping analysts' estimates. The strong bottom-line results were largely driven by higher-than-anticipated growth on the top line. Revenue clocked in at $9.8 billion, which was 9.1% better than last year's third quarter and better than the $9.5 billion average analyst estimate.

Now what: The fly in the ointment for Sysco and many other consumer-staple companies is the rising prices for food and fuel. Year over year, Sysco's product costs rose 5.1% and helped drag down its gross margin by 27 basis points. Fuel costs, meanwhile, helped dent the company's operating margin. However, on the basis of this quarter at least, it appears that Sysco is getting more top-line traction and is doing a better job offsetting higher product costs. It's dangerous to try to predict a trend on the basis of one quarter though, so investors will certainly want to stay tuned to whether Sysco can keep this up in the quarters ahead.

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Sysco is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Sysco is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of Sysco. 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.

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