Small stocks were tracking generally higher than the major indices Wednesday, with several small-cap energy names delivering upside on positive news. Eagle Rock Energy ( EROC) was climbing more than 8% on news the natural gas company will invest a total of $420 million on expansion. Its three acquisitions include $220 million for Escambia Asset and its 33 wells in Alabama and $180 million for 171 wells in Texas from Redman Energy. Based on the deals, Eagle Rock expects to increase its annual dividend by 3 cents to 35 cents, for a dividend of as much as $1.57 per year. Shares were up $1.98 at $25.99. Another natural gas explorer, McMoRan Exploration ( MMR), was also climbing on news of a well discovery. The New Orleans company said drillings at its Flatrock well "indicate a potential major discovery." Shares were up $1.34, or 8.9%, at $16.35. Oilsands Quest ( BQI) was surging 10% to $2.97 after the exploration company estimated the resource potential of its oil sands exploration permits in northwest Saskatchewan and northeast Alberta at 10 billion barrels of bitumen. Energy names weren't the only dominant forces in the small-cap space, however. Earnings drove stocks in various sectors both higher and lower. Among the biggest earnings winners was Jewett-Cameron Trading ( JCTCF), shares of which climbed 30%, after the lumber company reported a surge in third-quarter earnings. Jewett generated net income of $757,000, or 32 cents a share, on sales of $20.9 million. In the third quarter last year, the company reported earnings of $561,000, or 24 cents a share, on $20.6 million in revenue. Shares were $2.23 higher at $10.18.
Among the earnings losers was Flow International ( FLOW), which swung to a fourth-quarter loss of $3.1 million, or 8 cents a share, on $53.4 million in revenue. Last year, the water-pump manufacturer reported net income of $8.7 million, or 23 cents a share, on $65.2 million in sales. Shares were down 8% at $11.54. June sales reports also moved several names, among them InvesTools ( SWIM), shares of which were up 17% at $11.95, after the investor education firm's thinkorswim.com Web site reported a 348% increase in new accounts opened. Stage Stores ( SSI) also climbed on increased sales in June. During the month, same-store sales rose 1.4%. Shares of the department store retailer were up 7.8% at $21.34. Stage Stores, a component of the S&P SmallCap 600, lent support to the index, which was up 5.1, or 1.2%, at 441.38. Mothers Work ( MWRK), meanwhile, fell on a drop in June sales and lowered earnings guidance. The maternity-apparel maker said same-store sales fell 5.4%. It lowered its third-quarter guidance to a range of 86 cents to 90 cents a share, compared to its previous outlook of $1.25 to $1.55. The stock slumped 14.8% to $25.50. Analyst action also sent small-cap stocks moving. Robbins & Myers ( RBN) climbed 7% to $61.06 on an upgrade to buy from hold from Matrix Research. Cubic ( CUB) fell 9% to $30.83 on a downgrade from Friedman Billings to underperform from market perform. Likewise, Ruby Tuesday ( RT) was 4.5% lower, at $24.70, after Sun Trust Robinson lowered its rating from buy to neutral.