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What: Shares of Denver-based homebuilder M.D.C. Holdings
So what: What do you really expect out of a homebuilder right now? If you answered "not much," then it's easy to understand why M.D.C.'s not-quite-as-bad-as-expected fourth quarter led to such a big pop in its stock. For the quarter, the company managed a loss of "just" $0.40 per share on revenue of $247 million. On the bottom line, that's notably better than last year when the fourth quarter ended with a $0.65-per-share loss. It also topped the $0.46 loss that Wall Street analysts were expecting.
Now what: M.D.C. CEO Larry Mizel pointed out that if you ignore debt extinguishment and "land-related" charges, the company would have been profitable during the quarter. That's definitely a positive for a company in such a downtrodden industry, but an even bigger test of whether the company's efforts are paying off will come in the year ahead as M.D.C. looks to achieve full-year profitability. Wall Street analysts currently expect the company to notch a $0.57-per-share loss for 2012.
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Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer has no financial interest in 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 Facebook. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.