These 11 companies own earnings season

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Making investors happy at earnings time isn't difficult. Companies just need to make sure they at least do one thing: beat earnings expectations.

With earnings season kicking off today after the market closes, investors are already trying to guess which companies are the likeliest to make more money than expected. That's the holy grail during the pivotal period, and a gaggle of companies have a knack of doing it like clockwork the past four quarters.

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There are 11 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500, including gadget seller Best Buy, Facebook and computer software maker Symantec, that have beaten earnings expectations by 10% or more in each of the past four calendar quarters, according to a USA TODAY review of data from S&P Capital IQ.

Not surprisingly, these companies, which keep delivering positive earnings surprises, are winners with investors. An equal-weighted index of the 11 stocks are up more than 28% in the past 12 months, beating the S&P 500′s 20.6% gain during that time.

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Investors seem to be anticipating good things from these companies again in the second quarter. Over the past month, as investors start to handicap their favorites for the second-quarter reporting season, the index of the 11 chronically earnings beating stocks are up 2.7%, beating the 1.4% gain of the S&P 500.

A classic example of a company that just keeps surpassing estimates is social-networking company, Facebook. The company blew away earnings estimates in the first quarter by a robust 42%, after beating views in the previous three quarters by 15%, 32% and 36%, respectively. Analysts are calling for the company's earnings to grow by 133% in the second quarter, but it's easy to see why investors might be really expecting more.

Not all these forecast-beating companies are putting up huge earnings growth. In fact, three of the 11, including bank Hudson City, insurer Allstate and commodity miner Newmont Mining, are expected to post earnings declines in the second calendar quarter.

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The question is, though, can they beat expectations? On Wall Street, isn't not how you perform, but if you did better than expected.

Below are the 11 S&P 500 companies that have posted quarterly profit that tops expectations by 10% or more for all of the past four quarters:

Company Symbol Q1 earnings surprise % Q2 expected profit growth
Best Buy BBY 65% 181.30%
Facebook FB 41.70% 132.80%
Cablevision CVC 366.70% 94.10%
Lennar LEN 25% 50.50%
Travelers TRV 36.60% 30.00%
Symantec SYMC 11.90% 18.20%
Garmin GRMN 25% 15.70%
Edison Intl. EIX 11.10% 13.70%
Hudson City HCBK 28.60% -24.90%
Allstate ALL 10.20% -27.80%
Newmont Mining NEM 15.80% -54.60%
Sources: S&P Capital IQ, USA Today research

— By Matt Krantz, USA Today

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