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TheStreet Open House

The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week: Jan. 27

5. Treehouse Leaves Doubts

Come on Treehouse Foods (THS), give us a break. You are sending us to the nuthouse with all your earnings excuses.

Shares of the food maker, which cooks up noshables ranging from soups to salsas, sank almost 10% last Friday, after it forecast quarterly and full-year results below market expectations.

Treehouse brass blamed the unseasonably warm winter for its troubles, saying the mild weather hurt its soup and hot cereal sales. As a result, the company now says it will earn a profit of 84 to 87 cents a share for the fourth quarter, well below Wall Street's $1.07 estimate, when it officially reports results on Feb. 10.

As for the full year, Treehouse now predicts a 2011 profit of $2.70 to $2.73 a share, falling short of its previous estimate of $2.90 to $3.00 a share. According to the company, the lower guidance is due to higher sales in discount stores eating into the margins.

Alright. Let's stop right there for a second. For those not keeping score -- or have failed to keep up, this is the third time that Treehouse has taken an axe to its yearly guidance. Moreover, on each occasion those busy little elves have come up with a different reason for reducing numbers, offering every ruse short of the dog ate my revenue projections.

Let's do a quick review, shall we?

Back in May 2011, Treehouse dropped its yearly earnings outlook to a range of $3.00 to $3.08 because of a pricey new IT systems rollout. At the time, analysts were expecting the company to post earnings of $3.16 per share for fiscal 2011.

Then barely a month later in June, the company chopped its yearly earnings outlook to the aforementioned $2.90 to $3.00 per share spread, blaming higher freight, transportation, packaging and commodity costs.

Then comes last Friday's announcement that the real earnings for 2011 will be somewhere between $2.70 and $2.73 because of low-end stores and higher-than-expected temperatures.

Add it all up, and by our unofficial count, Treehouse has lowered its guidance 3 times totaling 15% in the last 10 months while giving at least 7 separate excuses for screwing up.

It's almost enough to drive you up a tree, isn't it?

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