I believe that a stock's biggest factor in beating the market is to first beat the market's expectations. That's why I devote this space every week to reviewing three companies that have humbled the prognosticators. Leaving Wall Street's pros with puzzled expressions usually means that these companies had more in the tank than expected, and capital appreciation often follows.

We can start with Best Buy (NYSE:BBY). The consumer-electronics superstore earned $0.42 a share in its latest quarter, excluding some restructuring charges. That's just shy of the $0.43 that the retailer delivered a year ago, but it's comfortably ahead of Wall Street's bottom-line target of $0.34.

With Circuit City's March liquidation, Best Buy stands to gain some serious market share in this space. Naturally, consumers need to be in a mood to snap up new computers, appliances, and televisions. We'll get there eventually, and when we do, that's when Best Buy will probably beat both analyst guesstimates and its previous year's net income.

FedEx (NYSE:FDX) is another topper, although you wouldn't know it by eyeing what appears to be another uninspiring quarter. Revenue fell by 20%. Pro forma profits of $0.64 a share -- before a writedown of the value of its assets turned black ink to red -- are a fraction of last year's pro forma earnings of $1.45 a share. Yes, these are lean times for shipping specialists such as FedEx and UPS (NYSE:UPS), but Mr. Market was expecting FedEx to earn just $0.51 a share.

Finally, we have Carnival (NYSE:CCL) sailing past the prognosticators. Taking a page out of the Best Buy and FedEx storylines, the leading cruise-ship operator's quarterly profit of $0.33 a share is less than it earned a year ago. However, it was still more than Wall Street's $0.29 target.

Carnival also announced that future bookings were well ahead of where they stood a year ago. That's good news for industry rivals such as NCL and Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL), as well as for Steiner Leisure (NASDAQ:STNR), which runs most of Carnival's shipboard spas.

So keep watching the companies that surpass expectations, since the market rewards the overachievers. That's the kind of story we look for in the Rule Breakers newsletter service. Want in? Check out a 30-day trial subscription. And come back next Monday to learn about more stocks that blew the market away.

Best Buy is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Steiner Leisure is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Best Buy and FedEx are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. United Parcel Service is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of toppers. He owns no shares in any of the companies in this story and 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.