Earnings estimates can be a funny thing. Analysts tend to bunch themselves around a certain number and then blame the companies when they miss. Whether Wall Street overshot -- or undershot -- a company's ultimate earnings power, they have the gall to blame the company instead of their models.

What can you do about it? Learn from their mistakes. Companies that come out ahead often repeat that feat, since analysts have a tendency of being slow in catching up to these great stories. Let's take a closer look at a few of the companies that humbled the prognosticators this past week.

We'll start with DSW (NYSE:DSW). The shoe retailer produced quarterly earnings of $0.25 a share. That may be well below last year's $0.34 showing, but it was a few cents higher than the $0.22 per stub that the market was banking on.

The chain went public over the summer, and this is its second report since the IPO. I should point out that DSW also managed to come in ahead of projections three months ago. It's a great sign to see a young company that understands how important it is not to disappoint investors after your market debut. DSW had enough to worry about, given the notoriety it gained earlier this year, when hackers were able to break into the company's system and lift credit card information from transactions placed at half of its stores. It was easy to think that shoppers might avoid the chain after the mishap, but I guess you can't stop a determined shopper from a great deal on a perfect pair of stiletto pumps.

Casey's General (NASDAQ:CASY) was another topper. The convenience-store chain posted fiscal second-quarter profits of $0.44 a share. Analysts were holding out for an $0.11-per-share showing. Casey's is an ideal example of why investors should track the market-thumpers. Three months ago, Casey's also beat the street with its first-quarter numbers.

This is a sector that investors tend to ignore, though it's clearly doing pretty well at the moment. The Pantry (NASDAQ:PTRY) topped forecasts a week earlier, and Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation 7-Eleven soared when it was acquired by 7-Eleven Japan. One of the biggest drivers for Casey's -- and many of the convenience store chains -- have been the gasoline pumps out front. Casey's is selling more gallons, at higher prices, and on fatter margins. Yes, folks, there are more buoyant fuel-price plays than gas stations, drillers, and refineries like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Valero Energy (NYSE:VLO) out there.

Comverse Technology (NASDAQ:CMVT) is the third company that we'll be taking a look at this week. The communications technology specialist earned $0.17 a share, two pennies ahead of analyst estimates. Like Casey's General, Comverse also outsmarted Wall Street in its previous quarter. At the time, I wrote about the company's "robust backlog of orders," leading to my argument that "the next few quarters [will] also come along nicely." No, I'm not patting myself on the back -- just pointing out the obvious. Companies that surprise the bean-counters have a decent shot of doing so again.

So keep watching the companies that lap expectations. Over time, it will be a rewarding experience for Foolish investors. It's the kind of surprise that market-watchers relish in the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service. The strategy has paid off as the average Rule Breaker selection has trounced the S&P 500's market return. Want in? Check out a 30-day trial subscription.

Either way, come back next Monday to learn about more stocks that blew the market away.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of toppers. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.