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First quarter earnings season is just past the halfway mark. So far, around 67% of companies have delivered positive earnings surprises. That's pretty typical for an earnings season. However, growth has been very sluggish with earnings up just 2% year-over-year.

While earnings 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 come in a penny or two ahead of consensus. But revenue is generally much less susceptible (although not immune) to manipulation.

So far in Q1, just 47% of companies have beaten expectations on the top-line. That's pretty weak, but it isn't too alarming either. Soft revenues have been a recurring theme in recent quarters.

The Triple Play

Positive revenue and earnings surprises are great, but if management guidance is weak and/or if analysts revise their earnings estimates lower, a stock can still get punished.

And while there have been plenty of earnings and revenue beats this quarter, positive earnings estimate revisions have been much more scarce. In fact, estimates for the second quarter of 2014 have been steadily declining as this earnings season has progressed.

Total earnings for the S&P 500 are now expected to be up 4.3% y-o-y in Q2 compared to expectations of 5.5% growth in late March. These negative revisions could be a major reason why stock market gains have been so hard to come by lately.

Earnings and revenue beats simply are not enough. 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 coveted "Triple Play" this earnings season? I ran a screen in Research Wizard, and here are 4 of the top companies from the list:

SYNNEX Corp (SNX - Snapshot Report)

EPS Surprise: 33%
Revenue Surprise: 9%
4-Week Change in 2014 Consensus: 22%
4-Week Change in 2015 Consensus: 20%

SYNNEX Corp is a business process services company, servicing resellers, retailers and original equipment manufacturers around the globe. It provides services in IT distribution, supply chain management, contract assembly and global business services.

The company delivered better-than-expected Q1 results on April 3 and provided bullish guidance for Q2, driven by strength in IT demand. This prompted analysts to revise their estimates significantly higher for both 2014 and 2015. It is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock.

ManpowerGroup Inc. (MAN - Analyst Report)

EPS Surprise: 28%
Revenue Surprise: 1%
4-Week Change in 2014 Consensus: 8%
4-Week Change in 2015 Consensus: 6%

ManpowerGroup provides workforce solutions around the globe - from staffing, recruitment, workforce consulting, outsourcing and career management to assessment, training and development.

The company posted strong first quarter results on April 23, driven in large part by solid revenue growth in Europe. Management also provided Q2 EPS guidance above consensus at the time, prompting analysts to unanimously raise their estimates for both 2014 and 2015. This sent the stock to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Sanmina Corp (SANM - Snapshot Report)

EPS Surprise: 11%
Revenue Surprise: 2%
4-Week Change in 2014 Consensus: 7%
4-Week Change in 2015 Consensus: 11%

Sanmina Corp provides end-to-end manufacturing solutions to OEMs in a variety of industries. The company delivered better-than-expected top and bottom line results for its fiscal 2014 second quarter on April 22.

Management also provided an encouraging outlook for Q3, prompting analysts to revise their estimates significantly higher for both 2014 and 2015. This sent the stock to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). Shares of Sanmina are up more than 12% since the earnings report. But with the stock trading at less than 13x forward earnings, it has plenty of room to run higher.

SKECHERS (SKX - Analyst Report)

EPS Surprise: 85%
Revenue Surprise: 8%
4-Week Change in 2014 Consensus: 9%
4-Week Change in 2015 Consensus: 16%

Footwear company SKECHERS crushed first quarter expectations on April 22. Higher sales and expanding profit margins led to huge earnings growth year-over-year.

And thanks to a strong start to April, management believes that this positive momentum will continue through the second quarter and into the second half of the year. Analysts have revised their estimates significantly higher for both 2014 and 2015 after the Q1 report. This sent the stock to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

The Bottom Line

Overall, first quarter earnings season has been a bit subpar. But these four companies each delivered outstanding results and are well-positioned to run higher over the coming weeks.

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

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