Earnings don't just give companies a chance to sweat in the spotlight every three months. For the opportunistic entities, it's also a moment to shine. That's why investors are well served to take note of the companies that beat analyst estimates. Blowing the market away often means that things are going so well at a particular company, even those who are paid to follow it closely have no idea how good things are.

That said, let's take a closer look at a few of the companies that humbled the prognosticators this past week.

We'll start with Paychex (NASDAQ:PAYX). The payroll specialist earned $0.30 a share during its fiscal second quarter. That was a penny better than analysts had been expecting out of the payroll processing specialist. Yes, sometimes a sector is just on fire when it comes to outsmarting the model munchers. Paychex rivals ADP (NYSE:ADP), Ceridian (NYSE:CEN), and Administaff (NYSE:ASF) had all beaten their most recent quarter's profit targets. Why not Paychex?

Palm (NASDAQ:PALM) was another topper. The handheld-computing pioneer earned $0.47 per share before favorable charges. Net income came in below last year's $0.53-a-share showing, but it was still four cents better than Wall Street estimates. The showing also came on an 18% spike in revenues. Yes, that does mean margins contracted during the period, but the same thing happened during its previous report. Back in September, the company's stock got slammed after it posted a 7% dip in profitability despite a 25% uptick in revenue.

So what's the difference this time? Well, after raining on the market's parade last time out, Palm readers were braced for the worst. Obviously, that didn't happen. Palm is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. It's been a good one, rising by 49% since being singled out to subscribers nine months ago. It would definitely be encouraging to see margins start to widen again, but as long as the top line keeps growing nicely, you've got to hand it to Palm (pun intended, of course).

FedEx (NYSE:FDX) is the third company we'll take a look at this week. The speedy deliverer earned $1.53 a share in its fiscal second quarter. Projections were pegged at $1.40 a stub. Profits inching 33% higher on a mere 10% gain in revenue indicates that margins are improving, with Federal Express milking more out of every dollar it took in.

FedEx is a more seasoned Stock Advisor selection. It has soared 83% higher since it was recommended nearly three years ago. And it doesn't seem likely to be going in reverse any time soon, especially since the company boosted its outlook for the remainder of fiscal 2006.

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

Come on 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. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.