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We are just past the halfway mark for first quarter earnings season, and if you just look at the percentage of positive earnings surprises, things have been pretty decent.

So far a solid 68% of companies have delivered positive earnings surprises, although earnings growth is a lackluster +2.5% year-over-year.

However, as Zacks Research Director Sheraz Mian has pointed out, there is one glaring weak spot this earnings season: revenue.

Don't Forget the Top Line

While a strong percentage of companies have beaten Wall Street expectations on the bottom line, only 38% of companies have delivered positive revenue surprises this quarter. And year-over-year "growth" is -1.5%.

While earnings surprises may garner most of the attention, I'm much more impressed by a company that beats on both the bottom line and the top line. That's because earnings can often be "massaged" by management to clear the quarterly hurdle set by Wall Street. But revenue is generally much less susceptible (although not immune) to manipulation.

The Triple Play

Positive revenue and earnings surprises are great, but if management guidance is weak and/or if analysts still revise their earnings estimates lower, a stock can still be punished. The true winners from earnings season are those who can deliver the coveted "Triple Play":

  • A positive earnings surprise
  • A positive revenue surprise, and
  • Significant positive earnings estimate revisions

And as the well-documented "post-earnings announcement drift" shows, these blow out quarters are often handsomely rewarded by the market for several weeks after a company reports.

4 Triple Plays

So which companies have delivered the "Triple Play" this earnings season? I ran a screen in Research Wizard, and here are 4 of the top companies from the list:

Lumber Liquidators (LL - Snapshot Report)

EPS Surprise: +30%
Revenue Surprise: +7%
4-Week Change in 2013 Consensus: +10%

Lumber Liquidators is the largest specialty retailer of hardwood flooring in North America. It is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock.

Meritage Homes (MTH - Snapshot Report)

EPS Surprise: +32%
Revenue Surprise: +6%
4-Week Change in 2013 Consensus: +17%

Meritage Homes is a U.S. homebuilder. It is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock.

Everest Re Group (RE - Analyst Report)

EPS Surprise: +36%
Revenue Surprise: +16%
4-Week Change in 2013 Consensus: +10%

Everest Re Group is a property and casualty insurer/reinsurer based in Bermuda. It is a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock.

Potlatch Corporation (PCH - Snapshot Report)

EPS Surprise: +46%
Revenue Surprise: +2%
4-Week Change in 2013 Consensus: +21%

Potlatch Corporation is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) with approximately 1.4 million acres of timberland in Arkansas, Idaho and Minnesota. It is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock.

The Bottom Line

This earnings season has been decent, but these four companies each reported outstanding quarters and are well-positioned to run higher over the coming weeks.

Todd Bunton is the Growth & Income Stock Strategist for Zacks Investment Research and Editor of the Income Plus Investor service.

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