Why settle for ordinary quarterly reports?

I believe that the biggest factor in a stock's ability to beat the market is its ability 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.

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

We can start with Lennar (NYSE:LEN). The real estate developer posted its first quarterly profit in two years. Sure, the black ink was largely the handiwork of a whopping deferred tax credit, but back out all of the one-time items, and Lennar would have only posted a deficit of $0.26 a share.

Analysts were expecting a loss of $0.48 a share, compared to a huge $5.12-per-share shortfall a year earlier.

Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO) also beat the pros. The pocketbook-friendly retailer saw earnings per share climb 17% to $0.49 in its latest quarter, comfortably ahead of the $0.47 a share that Mr. Market was banking on.

Healthy comps and widening margins can work wonders for a retailer, especially one that is perceived to stretch the value of disposable income. Big Lots (NYSE:BIG) and 99 Cents Only (NYSE:NDN) have also blasted past their most recent quarterly targets.

Finally, we have Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY) cleaning up nicely. The housewares superstore chain delivered net income of $0.58 a share for its fiscal third quarter. Investors relished the report, since analysts were only expecting a profit of $0.43 a share.

Bed Bath & Beyond's report is a bigger surprise than Family Dollar's victorious turn, because the market still sees weakness in the housing market. Are consumers loading up on home furnishings before home prices rebound? Last month's surprising profit from former dog Pier 1 (NYSE:PIR) seems to suggest they are.

Keep watching the companies that surpass expectations. Over time, doing so 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.

Bed Bath & Beyond is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of toppers. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this column. 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.