Why settle for ordinary quarterly reports?

I believe that the biggest factor in a stock's ability to beat the market is to beat the market's expectations. That's why I look every week at three companies that have humbled Wall Street's pros over the past few trading days. If a company has more in the tank than the analysts figured, capital appreciation often follows.

We can start with Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI). The country's leading video game company earned $0.08 a share in its latest quarter, just ahead of analysts' profit target of $0.07 a share.

The video game industry was going strong until sputtering earlier this year, as cash-strapped gamers eventually tired of paying up for new hardware and releases. Mr. Market overshot the pessimism, though. Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS), THQ (NASDAQ:THQI), and now Activision Blizzard have all surpassed bottom-line guesstimates.

IMAX (NASDAQ:IMAX) lived up to the size of its gargantuan screens, by delivering its first profit in three years. Earnings of $0.05 a share more than doubled the $0.02-per-share showing that Wall Street was expecting. Multiplex operators are flocking to the platform that grants them the luxury of charging a premium for movie tickets.

Finally, we have AIG (NYSE:AIG) making a rare appearance in this weekly collection. The disgraced insurer surprised even the bulls, by earning $2.30 a share in its latest quarter before adjusting for capital gains and losses. Analysts were nervously awaiting net income to clock in at $1.67 a share. You know it's a breakthrough quarter when last year's bad boys -- AIG, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and Citigroup (NYSE:C) -- all trounce expectations during the second quarter.

So keep watching the companies that surpass 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.

What stocks will you regret not buying today? See Fool contributor Selena Maranjian's list of stocks for the next 20 years.

IMAX is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. 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 stocks in this column 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.