Get Jim Cramer's picks for 2006. Luby's ( LUB) was among the best-performing stocks on the NYSE Thursday after the restaurant operator posted a better-than-expected profit for its recently ended first quarter. Luby's swung to a profit of $2.2 million, or 8 cents a share, from a year-earlier loss of $1 million, or 5 cents a share. Sales rose to $73.3 million from $68.6 million a year earlier, despite the loss of 236 store days of operations due to Hurricane Rita. Analysts expected earnings of 3 cents a share and sales of $70.4 million, according to Thomson First Call. Luby's, which is based in Houston, said the loss of revenue caused by Rita was offset by increased traffic and catering events related to the hurricane help effort. The company's shares recently were up $1.23, or 10%, to $13.20. Shares of another restaurant operator, Kona Grill ( KONA), tumbled 9% after the company projected that its 2006 loss will be wider than previous forecasts. The grill and sushi bar operator expects next year's loss to be 44 cents to 53 cents a share, with revenue of $49 million to $51 million. Kona's previous forecast called for a loss of 26 cents to 35 cents a share on revenue of $53 million to $55 million. The company attributed the revised projection to delays in restaurant openings and a disappointing performance at its Sugarland, Texas, unit. Kona backed its projections for a fourth-quarter loss of less than 1 cent a share to 5 cents a share, with a full-year 2005 loss per share of 13 cents to 23 cents. The company continues to expect revenue of $9.6 million to $10.6 million for the fourth quarter and $36 million to $37 million for the year. Kona also still expects to be profitable in 2007. The company's shares were down 80 cents to $7.95.
Scotts Miracle-Gro ( SMG) fell 2% after the maker of lawn and garden products projected that its loss for the current quarter will be wider than last year. For the first quarter ending this month, Scotts expects that its loss will be 15% to 20% bigger than the loss of $49 million, or 75 cents a share, that it reported last year. Analysts, on average, predicted a loss of 75 cents a share, in line with last year's results. The company said the wider loss was caused by a shift in the timing of retailer purchases. Scotts noted, though, that it expects stronger profits later in the year and remains comfortable with its outlook for 2006. The company expects fiscal 2006 adjusted earnings to rise 20% to 22% from 2005. Scotts shares fell 81 cents to $46.51. Shares of Lifeway Foods ( LWAY) jumped 11% on news of a distribution deal with Costco ( COST). Lifeway, which makes a cultured dairy product called Kefir, will sell its "Lowfat Plain Kefir" at Costcos in certain test markets in the Midwest. Lifeway shares gained $1.30 to $12.85. ExpressJet ( XJT) continued to fall after Continental Airlines ( CAL) said Wednesday that it will remove 69 of the 274 jets operated by the regional airline. Continental said it believes that the rates charged by ExpressJet to for regional capacity are above the current market prices. ExpressJet shares were down 20 cents, or 2.4%, to $8.12. Regional carriers Mesa Air ( MESA) and SkyWest ( SKYW) rose on speculation that they could benefit from ExpressJet's loss. Mesa Air shares were up 73 cents, or 7.3%, to $10.78, while SkyWest rose $1.05, or 3.9%, to $27.90. Volume leaders on the NYSE included Lucent Technologies ( LU), down 3 cents to $2.70; Pfizer ( PFE), down 8 cents to $23.53; General Motors ( GM), down 14 cents to $18.47; Motorola ( MOT), up 2 cents to $22.92; Ford Motor ( F), down 11 cents to $7.73; General Electric ( GE), up 13 cents to $35.24; Hilton Hotels ( HLT), up 76 cents to $23.06; Chesapeake Energy ( CHK), up 35 cents to $31.70; ExxonMobil ( XOM), up 26 cents to $56.51; and ConocoPhillips ( COP), down 1 cent to $58.28.
Nasdaq's heavily traded stocks included Sirius Satellite Radio ( SIRI), up 5 cents to $6.80; JDS Uniphase ( JDSU), up 5 cents to $2.45; Cisco ( CSCO), down 1 cent to $17.28; Microsoft ( MSFT), up 3 cents to $26.42; Quidel ( QDEL), up $2.53 to $12; Apple ( AAPL), down $1.39 to $72.18; Sun Microsystems ( SUNW), unchanged at $4.32; Intel ( INTC), down 2 cents to $25.42; Oracle ( ORCL), down 2 cents to $12.26; Celgene ( CELG), up $3.88 to $64.73; Alkermes ( ALKS), up $1.14 to $18.93; and Dell ( DELL), down 23 cents to $30.40. Get Jim Cramer's picks for 2006.