3 Earnings Surprises That Wall Street Ignored, but I Did Not

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Doesn't it always seem like we're hearing about the same 100 or so companies reporting earnings over and over each quarter? At least to me it does! There are literally thousands of companies reporting earnings every three months, but even with dozens of brokerages available to cover these stocks, many go unnoticed by Wall Street.

As a self-proclaimed discoverer of lost or forgotten stocks, I've uncovered three stellar reports from last week that went largely unnoticed. I'm not going so far as to call these three companies a buy just yet, but these earnings reports were clearly enough to get my attention.

Echelon (Nasdaq: ELON  )
For a company with a penchant for reporting quarterly losses, two consecutive earnings beats and quarterly profits are enough to get me to take notice.

Echelon, a networking company that produces technology capable of monitoring and controlling energy production, reported a surprise profit of $0.02 last week when analysts had been calling for a loss of $0.06. Sales rose an impressive 62% over the year-ago period thanks to a 125% jump in the company's utility segment revenue.

I'm not willing to say for certain that Echelon has turned the corner because its utility division margins are considerably lower than its commercial products division, but it appears to be on the right track. As a cash-rich company, Echelon could become an attractive takeover target for significantly larger peers like Siemens (NYSE: SI  ) or Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK  ) , which makes Echelon worth watching.

MedAssets (Nasdaq: MDAS  )
There aren't many sectors I'm willing to support in bull or bear markets, but hospital software is one I can definitely get behind. As the number of people worldwide grows, the need for medical equipment and the software to support that equipment only grows as well, making a company like MedAssets a potential investment goldmine.

The company appears to be living up to that goldmine status based on its third-quarter results. Excluding one-time items relating to its acquisition of Broadlane Group in November of last year, MedAssets killed estimates of $0.17 by reporting a profit of $0.26 on a 50% jump in revenue. This quarter marked the third straight earnings beat, and the second one by double-digit percentages. I'm not gung-ho on MedAssets just yet because it hasn't proven that it can control its rapidly rising expenses, but the potential is definitely there.

Tower International (NYSE: TOWR  )
Admit it: If I offered you a company that made the steel frames for the automotive sector, you'd probably run kicking and screaming in the other direction. With Ford (NYSE: F  ) commenting that U.S. auto sales would likely not reach the 13 million unit plateau set earlier in the year, the tone in the sector is dour at best.

Yet Tower International once again managed to trump analyst estimates. Sales at the metal fabricator rose by 24% over the year-ago period, with the company reporting a profit, excluding items, of $0.03 versus an expected loss of $0.19. This marked the third time in the past four quarters that Tower has beaten estimates. In addition, the company raised its EBITDA guidance to $225 million-$230 million from a previous forecast of $215 million-$225 million. At a mere eight times forward earnings, this stock is worth some further research.

Foolish roundup
A stock doesn't have to have 50 analysts following it to make it relevant. There's a wide world of stocks out there, and you have to be willing to dig deeper than just the 100 most common stocks if you hope to catch the next Microsoft.

Do you have a stock on your radar or in your portfolio that reported better-than-expected earnings this quarter that Wall Street seems to have overlooked? Share it -- and your analysis of that stock -- in the comments section below, and consider adding Echelon, MedAssets, and Tower International to your free and personalized watchlist to keep up on the latest news with each company.

Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He considers himself the caped crusader of small-cap stocks. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong , track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Ford and Microsoft, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that believes in putting investors first.

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