Why settle for ordinary quarterly reports?

Each week, I examine three companies that beat market expectations, since I believe that's the biggest factor determining whether a stock will beat the market. Leaving Wall Street's pros with puzzled looks on their faces can be a good thing. It usually means that the companies have more in the tank than analysts figured. Capital appreciation typically follows.

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

We can start with Ebix (Nasdaq: EBIX). The cloud-computing platform for insurance companies saw fourth-quarter profits soar 53% to $12.1 million -- or $0.92 on a pre-split per-share basis. Those earnings were well ahead of both the $0.66 a share it recorded a year ago, and the per-share target at which Wall Street took aim.

Preppy retailer J. Crew Group (NYSE: JCG) dressed the part, reversing a year-ago loss with net income of $0.61 a share in its latest quarter. Analysts were lost in the mall, projecting a profit of only $0.46 a share.

J. Crew's win wasn't typical. Apparel retailers Hot Topic (Nasdaq: HOTT), The Children's Place (Nasdaq: PLCE), and American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE: AEO) simply met expectations.

Finally, GeoEye (Nasdaq: GEOY) caught Mr. Market's eye. The satellite-imagery specialist's latest quarterly profit of $0.55 a share is roughly twice the $0.27 a share that analysts were banking on. Landing a few meaty contracts hasn't hurt the company, either.

It's important to keep watching the companies that surpass expectations. Over time, it will be a profitable 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.

Ebix and GeoEye are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. The Fool owns shares of Ebix. 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.