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Do you like to follow earnings season? Although this earnings season is well underway, there are still many names that haven't yet reported their results.

To create the stock list below we started by looking for stocks with a history of surprising the market with positive earnings reports, with an average earnings surprise of at least 5% over the last five quarterly reports.

We continued our analysis by looking at the financial statements of all companies to pick those companies with low leverage, and encouraging sales trends.

We looked for companies with a debt-to-equity ratio of less than 0.1. This allowed us to focus on strong credit quality companies. Also, when we analyzed the balance sheet we focused on the total debt of the company instead of only long-term debt.

Finally, we researched those stocks with strong sales trends, comparing growth in revenue to growth in accounts receivable. Since accounts receivable is the portion of revenue not yet received, and there is no guarantee the money will ever be received, the smaller the portion of revenue made up of receivables, the healthier the company's revenue.

We screened for stocks seeing faster growth in revenue than accounts receivable year-over-year, as well as accounts receivable comprising a smaller portion of current assets over the same time period.

Our analysis of the financials left us 7 companies with strong top-line growth and debt-to-equity of less than 0.1.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in monthly return for the stocks mentioned below. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.

A Closer Look

We took a closer look at Apogee Enterprises, Inc. (APOG). The stock trades around $25 close to its 52-week high of $25.69, up 78% in the past 1-year. The stock pays a dividend of 1.5% with a 5-year dividend growth of 5%. Some of the closest competitors of the company such as Asahi Glass Co., Guardian Glass Co., and Pilkington Group Limited are privately held.

The company maintains a conservative balance sheet with cash and short-term investments of $63 million, and $30 million in long-term debt. Also, the company has a $100 million credit agreement, which matures October 2017. As of December 1st, 2012 there were no borrowings under the facility.

Here is a company with a solid credit profile, and a history of positive earnings surprises. Are you ready to invest in Apogee Enterprises?

The List

Do you think these stocks will continue to surprise? Use the list below as a starting point for your analysis:

1. Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ALXN): Engages in the discovery, development, and commercialization of biologic therapeutic products in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Japan, and the Asia Pacific.

  • Market cap at $17.53B, most recent closing price at $90.21.
  • Revenue grew by 44.15% during the most recent quarter ($294.14M vs. $204.05M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by 40.71% during the same time period ($311.37M vs. $221.29M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 27.07% to 22.08% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2012-09-30 to 3 months ending 2011-09-30).
  • In Dec 2011: Reported EPS at 0.41 vs. estimate at 0.34 (surprise of 20.6%). In Mar 2012: Reported EPS at 0.45 vs. estimate at 0.39 (surprise of 15.4%). In Jun 2012: Reported EPS at 0.47 vs. estimate at 0.37 (surprise of 27%). In Sep 2012: Reported 0.6 vs. estimate at 0.47 (surprise of 27.7%. [Average earnings surprise at 22.68%].
  • Debt-to-equity at 0.09
  • The company is expected to report earnings on February 14th, 2013.

2. Apogee Enterprises, Inc. : Engages in the design and development of glass products, services, and systems.

  • Market cap at $693.49M, most recent closing price at $24.35.
  • Revenue grew by 8.9% during the most recent quarter ($190.42M vs. $174.85M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -3.2% during the same time period ($127.36M vs. $131.57M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 59.43% to 50.29% during the most recent quarter (comparing 13 weeks ending 2012-12-01 to 13 weeks ending 2011-11-26).
  • In Feb 2012: Reported EPS at 0.11 vs. estimate at 0.06 (surprise of 83.3%). In May 2012: Reported EPS at 0.06 vs. estimate at 0.03 (surprise of 100%). In Aug 2012: Reported EPS at 0.17 vs. estimate at 0.09 (surprise of 88.9%). In Nov 2012: Reported 0.28 vs. estimate at 0.23 (surprise of 21.7%. [Average earnings surprise at 73.48%].
  • Debt-to-equity at 0.09.
  • The company is expected to report earnings on April 10th, 2013.

3. Benchmark Electronics Inc. (BHE): Provides electronics manufacturing services in the Americas, Asia, and Europe.

  • Market cap at $992M, most recent closing price at $17.89.
  • Revenue grew by 7.14% during the most recent quarter ($610.77M vs. $570.08M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -1.75% during the same time period ($464.72M vs. $473.02M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 39.57% to 38.61% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2012-09-30 to 3 months ending 2011-09-30).
  • In Mar 2012: Reported EPS at 0.25 vs. estimate at 0.2 (surprise of 25%). In Jun 2012: Reported EPS at 0.32 vs. estimate at 0.27 (surprise of 18.5%). In Sep 2012: Reported EPS at 0.31 vs. estimate at 0.3 (surprise of 3.3%). In Dec 2012: Reported 0.33 vs. estimate at 0.29 (surprise of 13.8%. [Average earnings surprise at 15.15%].
  • Debt-to-equity at 0.01.
  • The company reported earnings on February 4th, 2013.

4. CommVault Systems, Inc. (CVLT): Provides data and information management software applications and related services primarily in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

  • Market cap at $3.5B, most recent closing price at $75.88.
  • Revenue grew by 23.65% during the most recent quarter ($128.15M vs. $103.64M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by 10.56% during the same time period ($71.42M vs. $64.6M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 18.7% to 14.35% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2012-12-31 to 3 months ending 2011-12-31).
  • In Mar 2012: Reported EPS at 0.29 vs. estimate at 0.26 (surprise of 11.5%). In Jun 2012: Reported EPS at 0.3 vs. estimate at 0.23 (surprise of 30.4%). In Sep 2012: Reported EPS at 0.38 vs. estimate at 0.28 (surprise of 35.7%). In Dec 2012: Reported 0.39 vs. estimate at 0.32 (surprise of 21.9%. [Average earnings surprise at 24.88%].
  • Debt-to-equity at 0.
  • The company reported earnings on January 30th, 2013.

5. Cynosure, Inc. (CYNO): Develops, manufactures, and markets aesthetic treatment systems to the dermatology, plastic surgery, and general medical markets.

  • Market cap at $447.27M, most recent closing price at $28.13.
  • Revenue grew by 31.12% during the most recent quarter ($37.08M vs. $28.28M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -0.53% during the same time period ($14.9M vs. $14.98M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 13.35% to 11.15% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2012-09-30 to 3 months ending 2011-09-30).
  • In Dec 2011: Reported EPS at 0.08 vs. estimate at 0.03 (surprise of 166.7%). In Mar 2012: Reported EPS at 0.06 vs. estimate at -0.01 (surprise of 700%). In Jun 2012: Reported EPS at 0.2 vs. estimate at 0.1 (surprise of 100%). In Sep 2012: Reported 0.25 vs. estimate at 0.12 (surprise of 108.3%. [Average earnings surprise at 268.75%].
  • Debt-to-equity at 0.01.
  • The company reported earnings on February 12th, 2013.

6. Ellie Mae, Inc. Common Stock (ELLI): Provides hosting of electronic mortgage origination network in the United States.

  • Market cap at $543.99M, most recent closing price at $21.20.
  • Revenue grew by 87.18% during the most recent quarter ($27.46M vs. $14.67M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by 51.72% during the same time period ($11.5M vs. $7.58M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 25.52% to 10.21% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2012-09-30 to 3 months ending 2011-09-30).
  • In Dec 2011: Reported EPS at 0.13 vs. estimate at 0.05 (surprise of 160%). In Mar 2012: Reported EPS at 0.2 vs. estimate at 0.14 (surprise of 42.9%). In Jun 2012: Reported EPS at 0.27 vs. estimate at 0.12 (surprise of 125%). In Sep 2012: Reported 0.35 vs. estimate at 0.21 (surprise of 66.7%. [Average earnings surprise at 98.65%].
  • Debt-to-equity at 0.
  • The company is expected to report earnings on February 14th, 2013.

7. Sourcefire, Inc. (FIRE): Provides intelligent Cybersecurity solutions for information technology (IT); environments of commercial enterprises, such as healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, energy, education, retail, and telecommunications; and federal, state, and international government organizations worldwide.

  • Market cap at $1.3B, most recent closing price at $43.06.
  • Revenue grew by 30.13% during the most recent quarter ($58.83M vs. $45.21M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by 15.58% during the same time period ($58.74M vs. $50.82M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 25.85% to 24.16% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2012-09-30 to 3 months ending 2011-09-30).
  • In Dec 2011: Reported EPS at 0.25 vs. estimate at 0.19 (surprise of 31.6%). In Mar 2012: Reported EPS at 0.11 vs. estimate at 0.08 (surprise of 37.5%). In Jun 2012: Reported EPS at 0.16 vs. estimate at 0.14 (surprise of 14.3%). In Sep 2012: Reported 0.25 vs. estimate at 0.21 (surprise of 19%. [Average earnings surprise at 25.6%].
  • Debt-to-equity at 0.
  • The company is expected to report earnings on February 21st, 2013.

*Price data sourced from Yahoo! Finance, all other data sourced from Finviz.

Source: 7 Low-Debt Stocks With A History Of Earnings Surprises And Encouraging Sales Trends