David Sterman

More than one-third of companies in the S&P 500 have released 2012 quarterly results, and a clear set of themes have emerged. Profits have been slightly better than expected, while revenue has been a tad disappointing. More important, the forward view has been fairly dim: A wide range of companies have tamped down expectations for the second half of 2012.

Still, it always pays to take a close look at the numbers to identify any emerging pockets of sector strength. This way, investors can make more educated investment decisions and adjust their portfolio accordingly. Each earnings season, I take an early look (focusing on mid-cap and large-cap stocks) and then take a later look (focusing on small-caps) to see what kind of companies are exceeding profit expectations.

To find the earnings winners, I screen for companies that have topped earnings-per-share consensus forecasts by at least 25% (and at least five cents more than the consensus forecast). For this particular screen, I am only looking at companies worth at least $1 billion in market value.

Here are a dozen companies that have delivered solid second-quarter results -- relative to the consensus estimates.

Yet, there are other half-dozen stocks that meet the same criteria, with another kicker. These stocks sport very low price-to-earnings (P/E) multiples.

Notably, every one of these companies toils in the very same sector -- banking. In light of the troubled economy, the fact that these banks keep delivering solid quarterly results is quite impressive. These banks are capable of robust profit growth when the economy mends, and their shares are quite cheap right now.

David Sterman

David Sterman has worked as an investment analyst for nearly two decades. He is currently an analyst for StreetAuthority.com