In these economic times, Mr. Market seems to enjoy dogpiling on any stock that dares to fall short of analysts' estimates. To defy that trend, we're here to celebrate stocks that didn't merely meet Wall Street's predictions, but laughed in analysts' faces by leaving their forecasts in the dust. The companies below have soundly trounced earnings estimates by 20% or more in the latest quarter:

Company

CAPS Rating

EPS Surprise

Estimated EPS
% Growth
Current Quarter

Estimated Long-Term Growth

Ford (NYSE:F)

**

NC

NC

15%

Vonage (NYSE:VG)

*

NC

133%

16%

SolarFun Power (NASDAQ:SOLF)

***

131%

NC

13%

United States Steel (NYSE:X)

****

27%

NC

10%

UAL (NASDAQ:UAUA)

*

54%

187%

41%

Source: Zacks.com; NC=not calculable; Ford earned $0.26 vs. ($0.12) estimate; Vonage earned $0.03 vs. ($0.05) estimate.

Nonetheless, beating estimates isn't enough to make a stock a winner. Analysts are notoriously lousy at forecasting results, and one-time items can sometimes push earnings over the top. Wall Street professionals typically don't include such extraordinary events in their forecasts.

Rather than focusing on the past, we'll check whether analysts have a bead on future performance. With help from Motley Fool CAPS, we'll see which of the companies listed above may have the last laugh.

The joke's on them
Web satire site The Onion says Ford's new 2010 model for today's beaten-down consumer is its 1993 Taurus, "just enough car to take you from your mother-in-law's house to the unemployment office and back." The fact is that the automaker looks to be in better shape than it has been in a long, long time.

I'm not keen on Ford adding Twitter capabilities to its in-car communication and entertainment systems because distracted driving is already a big problem, but it does highlight the new thinking from its management, which continues to offer innovations that are catching on with car buyers.

Ford was the only U.S. carmaker to report rising sales in December (up 33%!), putting it on the high side of sales with Toyota (NYSE:TM) and Honda (NYSE:HMC). That sort of competitiveness is what attracted CAPS member Chilleee to the Ford story.

Ford, though on shaky footing, was the only domestic to weather the economic storms on their own sails. Despite poor showings domestically, they have a strong and robust international product lineup that not only bolsters their bottom line, but will supplement their lineup domestically as they restructure their product offerings from fuel inefficient SUV's, to small and efficient vehicles.

Go to the Ford CAPS page and add your opinion on its future. Just don't tweet it while you're driving.

Chuckles the clown
Third time pays for all, they say, and United States Steel is not leaving anything to chance as it returns to the well of protectionist tariffs against imported Chinese steel.

Back in November, the Commerce Department imposed duties on Chinese wire-decking producers that ranged from 2% up to 438% to offset the supposed subsidies they received from the government. Earlier this week, another 43% to 289% in tariffs were imposed on them. U.S. Steel is petitioning for more duties to be imposed, this time on Chinese-made pipe.

With the government waging the competitive battle for steel producers, no wonder Goldman Sachs issued upgrades on their potential for earnings growth. That was exactly why CAPS All-Star TMFDitty marked U.S. Steel to underperform the market.

Debt, pension obligations, and no free cash flow in sight. I'll take the "Goldman bump" as a good excuse to go short this overvalued steel play. Much more value to be found in more nimble competitors like Nucor and Steel Dynamics.

Yucking it up
The market's rally has changed from being mostly fueled by low-quality stocks to dragging most others along based on lower year-over-year comparables. If you think there's some funny business afoot, let us know -- head over to Motley Fool CAPS and sound off.

Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.