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-product recycler Darling International (NYS: DAR) were shooting up today, gaining as much as 11% in intraday trading after the company reported fourth-quarter results.

So what: It would appear that Darling's stock has pulled off the impossible. Though the company's fourth-quarter earnings per share of $0.25 came in well short of the $0.33 that Wall Street was expecting, the stock still managed to post an impressive post-earnings-report gain.

How is that possible? It's certainly an uncommon outcome, but in Darling's favor. Although EPS missed estimates, revenue topped expectations, which could be telling investors that business momentum is increasing. Additionally, the $0.25 that Darling earned was more than double the tally for the same quarter of the prior year. Finally, even after the post-earnings pop, the stock is still trading at under 12 times 2011 full-year earnings, suggesting that there wasn't a lot of optimism baked into the stock price to begin with.

Now what: As 2011 finished out, Darling dealt with the headwind of lower fat and protein finished-product prices, which was a key driver in the lower-than-expected profit. That will be an issue to watch as the company navigates 2012, but it's already got low expectations working in its favor -- analysts currently see both profit per share and revenue falling in 2012 from 2011.

Want to keep up to date on Darling International? Add it to your Watchlist.

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not have a 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 Facebook.The Motley Fool owns shares of Darling International. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.

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