As I survey yesterday's round of earnings reports, there's not a lot of good news out there. New York Times Co. reported a 27% hit to ad revenue, and the current quarter looks no better. Merck's (NYSE:MRK) weak vaccine sales led it to miss analyst estimates. Even mighty Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) reported a quarterly loss -- the company's first in 17 years.

Still, some select firms are managing to shine this earnings season. I'm not talking about the highly questionable "profits" being booked by folks like Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), either. These are companies that are truly doing well by any standard.

First up is gaming technology shop WMS Industries (NYSE:WMS). These guys and gals make video poker machines and other wagering widgets. Given the sorry state of casino empires like MGM Mirage (NYSE:MGM), it's hard to believe that WMS could be moving much product. But revenues are holding up, thanks in part to a strong recurring revenue base, plus an aftermarket business that includes conversion kits and parts sales. Layer in some higher average selling prices and operating efficiencies, and you've got yourself a showstopper of a quarter.

Next up is pawn and payday lender First Cash Financial Services (NASDAQ: FCFS). Like competitor EZCORP, First Cash is a natural choice for a countercyclical investment in this dreadful economic climate. Payday lending is drawing a lot of regulatory heat, putting the squeeze on that line of business, but pawning is plenty profitable for these folks, both here and in Mexico.

Third, we've got a sleepy-sounding chemical concern called Stepan (NYSE:SCL). The firm specializes in surfactants, which go into consumer products like soap, shampoos, and toothpaste. Again, this is not a bad line of work to be in when people are letting go of luxuries. The firm has strong inside ownership (it's still Stepan-family led after more than 75 years), and a share repurchase program in place. Stepan has raised its dividend for 41 years straight. Who's yawning now?

I'm giving Stepan the thumbs-up in Motley Fool CAPS. Click on over to join me in juicing the firm's middling three-star rating.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. He was recently ranked 50th out of 130,000-plus participants in CAPS. You can check out his profile and follow his musings using Twitter or RSS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.