Don't 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.

We can start with Clorox (NYSE: CLX). The company behind Oxi Magic stain remover, Green Works cleaners, and its namesake bleach earned $1.16 a share in its fiscal third quarter. Analysts were expecting $1.08, according to Thomson Reuters, flat with last year's showing. Many consumer brands suffered during the recession as consumers turned to cheaper store brands, but Clorox has now been able to post year-over-year growth in each of the past five quarters.

MasterCard (NYSE: MA) is also charging higher. Fueled by an 8% spike in consumer purchase volume, the credit card giant's quarterly profit soared 24% to $3.46 a share. Wall Street was banking on earnings of only $3.14. MasterCard's report came a week after rival Visa (NYSE: V) also landed well ahead of market expectations.

Finally, we have DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) broadcasting market-thumping earnings. Net income nearly tripled to $0.59 a share, as the satellite-television leader trounced Mr. Market's $0.45-per-share target. It was a good week for satellite services, since Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI) also posted a slightly larger-than-anticipated profit.

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.

Clorox is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. 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.