Why settle for ordinary quarterly reports?

I take a look every week at three companies that beat market expectations, since I believe that it's the biggest factor in a stock beating the market. Leaving Wall Street's pros with quizzical looks on their faces can be a good thing. It usually means that the companies have more in the tank than analysts figured and capital appreciation often follows.

Let's take a look at a few companies that humbled the prognosticators over the past few trading days.

We can start with Sohu.com (NASDAQ:SOHU). China's popular Internet portal saw net income more than quadruple to $1.02 a share. Analysts were expecting a profit of only $0.95 a share.

Sohu's win shouldn't come as a big surprise. Baidu.com (NASDAQ:BIDU) set the tone a week earlier, when China's leading search engine raced through Wall Street's bottom-line targets. Sohu has also easily topped analysts in each of the past six quarters.

Steiner Leisure (NASDAQ:STNR) is another topper. The provider of spa services on leading cruise lines like Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL) and Carnival (NYSE:CCL) cracked its knuckles and delivered third-quarter earnings of $0.89 a share. Investors were braced for earnings to dip to $0.68 a share after earning $0.72 a share a year earlier.

Finally we have DreamWorks Animation (NYSE:DWA) proving that there's more green to be made beyond Shrek. The worldwide success of Kung Fu Panda this summer -- now the company's biggest non-sequel theatrical release -- fueled a quarterly profit of $0.38 a share at the computer animation studio, well ahead of the $0.32 a share that analysts were expecting.

So, keep watching the companies that top expectations. Over time, it will be a rewarding experience for investors as the market rewards the overachievers. That's the kind of surprise we look for in the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service. Want in? Check out a 30-day free trial subscription.

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

Steiner Leisure and Baidu.com are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Royal Caribbean and DreamWorks Animation are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

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