Why settle for ordinary quarterly reports?

Each week I take a look at three companies that beat market expectations, since I believe that this is the deciding factor in a stock's market-beating success. 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 Akamai (NASDAQ:AKAM). The content delivery network earned $0.44 a share in its latest quarter by its "normalized" non-GAAP measure, ahead of both the $0.41 a share it earned a year earlier on that basis, and the $0.40 a share that Wall Street was looking for.

IT expenditures may be waning, but companies are turning to Web enablers like Akamai and Limelight Networks (NASDAQ:LLNW) to speed up their secure content deliveries.

MasterCard (NYSE:MA) is another topper. Before a litigation settlement, the credit card giant earned $1.87 a share in the fourth quarter. Analysts were expecting just $1.61 a share on the bottom line. Credit is a dirty word these days, but companies like MasterCard and Visa (NYSE:V) are holding up well since they simply market the cards and aren't on the hook for the risk.

MasterCard and Visa are naturally susceptible to plastic-strapped consumers performing fewer transactions, but that's a small concession, given the model's consistency.

Finally, we have Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) giving router rooters a reason to cheer. The networking giant's report wasn't exactly pretty. Revenue fell by 8%. Earnings took a 21% spill. However, the company's profit of $0.32 a share clocked in just above the $0.30 a share that Mr. Market was braced for.

So keep watching the companies that lap 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 Rule Breakers newsletter service. 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.

Akamai Technologies is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. 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. 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.