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

Sometimes the forecast is for a company to lose money, but it'll upset the analysts' apple cart by reporting profits. You can't actually calculate by how much they beat the estimates (seventh-grade math tells us we can't divide by zero or less), but it's still useful to understand why companies were able to exceed expectations.


CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Latest Quarter EPS Estimate

Latest Quarter EPS Actual

Estimated Long-Term Growth

Brigham Exploration (Nasdaq: BEXP)





Sigma Designs (Nasdaq: SIGM)





Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL)






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 only 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 will have the last laugh.

Laugh, clown, laugh
Brigham Exploration was a pioneer in what seemed to be a trend of natural gas companies hightailing it out of gas and into oil. With persistent low prices, even natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) is climbing the Rockies looking for oil.

In 2007, Brigham Exploration switched from the Gulf of Mexico and the Texas Panhandle to the Williston Basin in North Dakota and Montana, where it controls more than 200,000 net acres. Analysts point to better use of technology for its success in developing higher reserves. That technology has attracted CAPS member roseburg, who, in commenting on a pitch by All-Star mrindependent, says that its use of ceramic proppant is what makes it more efficient.

Raymond James Investments recently reported the BEXP price will get to $23/share. Their ceramic particles, instead of sand, make breaking up the shale rock more efficient in the Bakken and 150' lower Three Rivers rich oil deposites proven by the recent US Geologic Survey. BEXP is 80% owned by institutions.

Brigham Exploration uses proppant from CARBO Ceramics (NYSE: CRR) to help prop open the fractures created to allow the oil and gas to flow smoothly. Ceramic proppant allows for greater recovery of oil and gas from the well than typical sand proppants.

Measure twice, cut once
Blu-ray player sales rose 115% last year as the price differential with DVD players sharply narrowed. Whereas some analysts see sales growing to 7 million units in 2010, generating $1.4 billion in revenue, Dolby Labs (NYSE: DLB) is even more optimistic, estimating that 15 million to 20 million units will ship in its fiscal year (which ends in September).

While Sigma Designs has been crushing forecasts as a result of growing Internet protocol television (IPTV) demand, it also makes the chips in Blu-ray players, so the anticipated increase in the format's growth may very well bring a similar spike in its revenues. Just as Dolby has found its way into virtually all the consumer electronics that surround us, All-Star fdude71 sees Sigma Design becoming a ubiquitous force.

Look at the balance sheet... virtually no debt and cash generating. The only question I have is about the stock options. SIGM will be involved in IPTV and everything related... I think this will be a HUGE component of our day to day lifes in the very close future. As a market leader in the area SIGM is poised to benefit from this trend big time. I would imagine doubling my money in a year or 2.

An ill wind blowing
Universal Display continues to bounce back: Last month, its fourth-quarter results included revenue growth and narrower losses. The stock is also going up, and I'd hazard a guess it'll go much higher over the next year or two. OLED screens are grabbing more real estate in its target market of smartphones, MP3 players, and computer screens, but partners Samsung, LG Display, and AU Optronics (NYSE: AUO) hope to move the technology to TVs very soon. It becomes a matter of when, not if, Universal Display turns profitable.

After initially being disappointed by the slow uptake in OLED technology, hakentotoro says the tipping point has arrived.

Samsung has gone OLED happy and will be slapping OLEDs on almost all their high end mobile gadgets this year. Samsung is currently the world's biggest manufacturer of OLED displays and is Universal Display's biggest commercial customer. We should start seeing those money flowing to Universal Display's top line this year. Other consumer device makers have also started to incorporate OLED displays into their products and those will also contribute to Universal Display's growth.

Yukking 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.

Chesapeake Energy is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Universal Display and Sigma Designs are Rule Breakers picks. Dolby Laboratories is a Stock Advisor choice. The Fool owns shares of Chesapeake Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services today, 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.