It happens to every company sooner or later: Somebody sets a mark for quarterly earnings or monthly sales numbers, and the company misses that goal. Whether the company's own management, Wall Street analysts, or the market at large set the target, that miss can have serious consequences. Sometimes, an earnings stumble is a signal to sell, but digging in the dirt is also a good way to find turnaround candidates while they're getting beaten down. Today, we see that the sky isn't so blue, our clients aren't all that thin, and the Big Apple seems a bit shrunken.

Jetting the blue skies
Let's start with low-cost airline JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU), which managed a return to profitability but didn't meet its own expectations -- or those of the Street. The Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection presented $0.10 in net earnings per share on $633 million in revenue, narrowly missing analyst estimates on both counts. The company also missed some of its own targets; available seat miles grew 14.5% over the year-ago period, but management had expected a 20%-22% capacity boost.

On other counts, JetBlue whooshed past its targets. Members of management wanted a 7% operating margin on the fourth quarter, and it delivered 10.2%. They wanted to end the year with $650 million in cash and got $699 million -- albeit with $514 million of additional long-term debt as well.

Missing the capacity target may not be such a bad thing -- available miles grew faster than the revenue-generating passenger miles, anyway, and the load factor dropped 1.4 percentage points to 79.7%. The company is growing its serviceable network very quickly, adding new destinations and routes every month. But the average ticket price increased about 20% over last year to make up for rising fuel prices, and I can see how that leads to a challenge when it comes to keeping passengers' behinds in the seats.

Other than JetBlue and the perennially profitable Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), the airline industry is a minefield of bankruptcies, losses, and desperation. It's nice to see the company returning to profitability, but JetBlue doesn't quite have the scale and the massive oil-price hedges that Southwest does. That makes it a bit more vulnerable to oil-price swings and susceptible to the occasional loss -- at least while it's still building out its Embraer fleet and setting up operations in new airports all the time. Call this one a mixed quarter, treat the price drop as a buy-in opportunity, and wait for the next blowout or bomb of a quarterly report. JetBlue is like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you're gonna get, but it's all good in the long run.

Oh, where is my Neoware?
We're moving on to thin-client specialist Neoware (NASDAQ:NWRE), where sales fell 19% year over year to $23.8 million, and adjusted earnings were cut to one-fifth of last year's $0.15 per share. That's $800,000 below Wall Street's sales target and about one-third of the $0.08 earnings goal.

Neoware CEO Klaus Besier explained that a few large clients reduced their order volumes, and that the company is going through an expensive restructuring process. His stated goal is to "take advantage of growth opportunities in the market, as well as taking market share from our competitors."

The company counts green-screen maker Wyse among its rivals, alongside powerhouses such as IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ). Neoware is also up against other software solutions to the thin-client problem, from the likes of Citrix and EMC's VMware subsidiary. It's a tall order, and I wish him luck. Judging from the list of adversaries, I think he'll need it.

It's a small world, after all
Let's finish this roundup where we belong -- at the virtual trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:NYX). The longtime market maker but only recent tradable equity missed pro forma earnings estimates by a penny at $0.45 per share, though that's still a strong showing compared with the $0.18 loss per theoretical share last year, had the company been publicly traded at that point.

The integration of all-digital trading platform Archipelago is costing the NYSE in the short term but promises to make up for that over the long haul with more efficient trades. That should increase the order volume, while making the market more attractive for future listings, among other things. The company is changing fast today, and it's not done yet; it recently claimed a 5% stake in India's largest public exchange and announced a partnership with the Tokyo Stock Exchange, and the merger with pan-European trading floor Euronext is pending.

We're looking at the creation of the first multicontinental trading platform here. It's making our Global Gains staff giddy with glee, but it's sending rival Nasdaq (NASDAQ:NDAQ) into a scramble to keep up. That company has been working on a hostile takeover bid for the London Stock Exchange for about a year now, but so far, it's nothing doing.

NYSE became a Rule Breakers recommendation by virtue of buying a Rule Breakers pick, but NYSE appears to keep the iconoclastic spirit alive and well. It's an exciting time to watch the markets evolve, and this company looks poised to take a global leadership position. The occasional stumble along the way can be forgiven.

So long, for now
Some of these underperformers are victims of larger circumstances, while others might have only themselves to blame. It's up to you to decide which down-on-their-luck companies should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and which really are stuck in the mud. Come back next week, and we'll take a look at another batch of mishaps and disappointments. It'll be fun and educational.

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JetBlue and Embraer Empresa are two of the picks on the Motley Fool Stock Advisor scorecard, and NYSE Group is indeed a Rule Breaker. Find out more with a free 30-day trial subscription to either service.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a JetBlue shareholder but holds no other position in the companies discussed this week. The Fool has a disclosure policy, and you can see his current holdings for yourself.