Updated from 11:42 a.m. EDTShares of CKE Restaurants ( CKR) were among the NYSE's winners Tuesday, rising 14.5% after the company posted solid third-quarter earnings results that beat expectations. The restaurant operator earned $13.1 million, or 20 cents a share, on sales of $348.9 million. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of 17 cents a share on sales of $352.2 million. A year ago, the company earned $939,000, or 2 cents a share, on sales of $334.8 million. In the latest period, restaurant-level margins improved by 50 basis points at the company's Carl's Jr. restaurants and by 400 basis points at its Hardee's restaurants. Shares traded up $1.75 to $13.80. Engineered Support Systems ( EASI) rose 4.5% after the company posted strong fourth-quarter earnings and said 2005 earnings results, aided by an acquisition, would come in above expectations. The maker of military electronics equipment earned $21.3 million, or 76 cents a share, on sales of $256.4 million. Analysts were expecting earnings of 71 cents a share on sales of $216.6 million. Looking ahead, Engineered Support forecasts 2005 earnings of $3.10 to $3.15 a share, reflecting the effect of its Spacelink International acquisition, which is scheduled to close early in the second quarter. Sales, meanwhile, are expected to be between $975 million and $985 million. Analysts had been expecting earnings of $3.02 on sales of $924.4 million. Shares traded up $2.48 to $57.43. Shares of Blockbuster ( BBI) rose 4.6% on Tuesday after the company said it would eliminate late fees on video games and movies beginning Jan. 1. Under the no-late-fees program, which is what Blockbuster is calling the plan, the company will still have due dates of one week for video games and two days or one week for movies. The catch is that customers, if they need to keep the product for an extra day or two, can do it "stress free," the company said. If customers decide to keep the game or movie after a one-week grace period, Blockbuster, it said, will automatically sell them the product, less the rental fee. If customers decide they no longer want to own the product, Blockbuster will allow the customer to return the product within 30 days for a full credit to his account, minus a small restocking fee. The company said late fees would have contributed between $250 million and $300 million in operating income during 2005. Blockbuster is hoping that increased sales from the program will offset the lost income from late fees. Blockbuster said it expects 2005 operating income to be flat with 2004 results. Shares traded up 40 cents to $9.20.
Crane ( CR) fell 0.6% after the company warned it could have a tough time meeting fourth-quarter expectations. The diversified manufacturing company said "there will be challenges to achieving the lower end of fourth-quarter 2004 guidance," which the company put at 49 cents to 54 cents a share. Analysts had been expecting earnings of 52 cents a share. For 2004, excluding items, Crane expects earnings of $1.95 to $2 a share, which is in line with expectations of $1.97 a share. For all of 2005, Crane expects earnings of $2.05 to $2.15 a share on sales of $2 billion. Analysts had been expecting earnings of $2.13 a share on sales of $1.96 billion. Shares traded down 19 cents to $29.46. Knoll ( KNL) rose 14% on its first day of trading as a public company. The maker of office furniture sold more than 11 million shares at $15 apiece, raising about $165 million. The pricing came in at the middle of its expected range of $14 to $16 a share. Goldman Sachs and UBS Investment Bank led the underwriting syndicate. Shares traded up $2.10 to $17.10. NYSE volume leaders included Lucent ( LU), down 7 cents to $3.64; Sprint ( FON), up 66 cents to $25.10; Time Warner ( TWX), up 45 cents to $19.38; Pfizer ( PFE), up 17 cents to $27.33; and General Electric ( GE), down 10 cents to $37.38. Nasdaq volume leaders included Microsoft ( MSFT), down 2 cents to $27.23; Sirius Satellite Radio ( SIRI), down 9 cents to $7.95; Oracle ( ORCL), down 40 cents to $14.23; Intel ( INTC), up 61 cents to $23.24; Symantec ( SYMC), down $5.41 to $27.45; and Nextel Communications ( NXTL), unchanged at $29.99.