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Largest accounting staff agency misses earnings and sends shares tumbling

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The nation's largest accounting and finance staffing firm had a rough day Friday, with shares tumbling more than 9 percent after the company released a disappointing earnings report.

The company, Robert Half International, reported fourth-quarter earnings per share of 61 cents versus a Thomson Reuters estimate of 64 cents per share. Revenue also missed, with a reported figure of $1.27 billion against a Thomson Reuters estimate of $1.29 billion.

"These results were within the range of guidance we provided last quarter," CEO Harold Messmer said during a quarterly earnings call. "Robert Half continued to benefit from a tightening job market and solid service demand domestically and in our non-U.S. markets during the fourth quarter."

Morningstar analyst David Silver cited a shift away from the company's permanent-placement business and towards less-profitable temp placements as the reason for the loss.


"Permanent placements are a high profit business for them and permanent placements have been trailing off for five or six quarters," Silver told CNBC. "They're busy, but the profit margins aren't quite as high."