Avondale: LifePoint Q3 came with a nice tell

Kevin Campbell at Avondale Partners isn't too concerned that LifePoint Hospitals' third-quarter earnings per share fell seven cents short of his 75-cent estimate. (They still beat the Street estimate by two cents.) Nor has the need to trim his 2014 estimate by 5 percent because of pressures on the company's margins from Medicare and New Mexico programs deterred him from reiterating his 'market outperform' rating and $58 price target. The company, Campbell wrote to clients Friday, continues to do a good job controlling expenses, bringing in meaningful-use incentives and growing margins at hospitals it acquires.

But another thing caught his eye last week: After not buying back a single one of its shares in the first half of the year, LifePoint's leaders spent $30 million doing so in the third quarter — and at an average price of almost $46, 17 percent higher than during any other quarter in the past three years. That, Campbell wrote, is a move that bolsters his confidence in the company's future.

LifePoint shares (Ticker: LPNT) closed Friday trading at $49.92.