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 mortgage and life insurer Genworth Financial (NYSE: GNW) were flying high today, gaining as much as 20% in intraday trading after the company reported fourth-quarter earnings.

So what: Very simply, Genworth's fourth quarter was a lot better than it was the year before. Improving fortunes at its U.S. life insurance and mortgage insurance divisions helped drive the company's bottom line to a $107 million profit for the quarter after losing $161 million in the same quarter of 2010. Wall Street was actually hoping for more -- the average estimate for operating income per share was $0.19, while the company reported $0.17. However, investors appear to be responding well to the company's continued progress in digging out of the hole it fell into during the financial meltdown.

Now what: The housing market has been pretty dismal, but while there may not be a quick fix, some think the worst is now in the rearview mirror. Late last month, fellow Fool Morgan Housel wrote that the bottom for that bedraggled market may be close at hand.

For Genworth, it seems unlikely that its fortunes will suddenly turn rosy, but with a whole lot of pessimism seemingly built into its current valuation multiples, the steady progress that the company has been showing may be enough to keep current investors cheery.

Want to keep up to date on Genworth Financial? Add it to your watchlist.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.