Thursday's Top 5 Rocket Stocks

Ask cheapskate value investors to buy a stock that's achieved a new 52-week high, and you'll get one of two responses:

  1. Hysterical laughter.
  2. Sudden nausea.

Feel sorry for them, Fool.

How many times did biotech Celgene (Nasdaq: CELG  ) touch a new 52-week high on its way to becoming one of the 10 best stocks of the past decade? Too many to count, of course. (See for yourself.)

Let that be a lesson. Rocket stocks -- that is, high-growth stocks that are also realizing heavy price appreciation -- are sometimes worth buying.

Rocket stocks, not rocket science
And sometimes, they're worth buying in bulk. Think of Baidu.com. My buddy Rick Munarriz recommended China's top search engine to our Motley Fool Rule Breakers subscribers at $83.37 in October of last year.

I thought he was nuts. I mean it. The stock was both expensive and on a tear. So I argued against buying it in a January duel here at Fool.com. Now Baidu is a three-bagger. How I wish I had listened to what Rick was telling me those months ago!

Don't do as I did. Never assume that an expensive stock is too expensive. What looks like a cliff could really be base camp on a climb toward the summit of Everest. Each day in this column, with the help of the 74,000 pro and amateur stock pickers in our Motley Fool CAPS community, we'll seek those still climbing.

Our candidates will be found daily in the 52-week-high lists at The Wall Street Journal. But few highfliers will make the cut; we're looking for stocks that are expected to boost net income by at least 15% annually over the next five years, and that earn at least three of five stars from our CAPS contingent.

Here are today's top five for your consideration:

Company

Closing Price

CAPS Rating (5 Max)

5-Year Growth Estimate

52-Week Range

Bio-Imaging Technologies (NASDAQ:BITI)

$9.82

***

60.0%

$5.75-$9.88

NuVasive (NASDAQ:NUVA)

$43.11

****

31.3%

$21.23-$44.96

eHealth (NASDAQ:EHTH)

$35.06

****

31.0%

$17.67-$36.10

FTI Consulting (NYSE:FCN)

$57.67

****

17.4%

$25.95-$57.83

IDEXX Laboratories (NASDAQ:IDXX)

$128.45

*****

15.0%

$77.70-$128.92

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Finance, Motley Fool CAPS.

Our mostly small-cap list features some promising-but-speculative stocks. Yet these tiny titans can create astounding returns if you buy them before they get discovered. Witness veterinary pharmaceutical specialist IDEXX Laboratories, which has risen more than 52% over the past year, easily beating the S&P 500's 4% over the same period.

And it's not the only one. Health care is a theme with today's list. Take NuVasive, for example. This unloved growth stock is reminiscent of Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG  ) in that it, too, specializes in minimally invasive surgeries. The difference is the target. Intuitive Surgical's daVinci platform was intended for, and still most used in, heart-specific procedures. NuVasive, by contrast, aims to heal spinal injuries.

eHealth, meanwhile, is shaking the foundations of the health-insurance industry by selling affordable policies to individuals online. Are you listening, UnitedHealth Group?

I can see you
But my favorite from today's list is Bio-Imaging, which specializes in helping medical-device makers and biotech firms earn approval for treatments whose effectiveness is best measured via imaging devices. Think of X-rays or ultrasound machines.

So far, business has been pretty good:

Metric

Trailing 12 Months

2006

2005

2004

Return on capital

9.0%

3.7%

(13.6%)

4.9%

Return on equity

10.9%

5.6%

(13.9%)

5.1%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

I'm also intrigued by Bio-Imaging's valuation. Its 0.87 PEG ratio is nearly half the industry average. If analysts are right about the growth potential here -- and they may not be, remember -- this stock could be a real bargain at current prices.

Intrigued? Do your own due diligence, then check in with thousands of other investors at CAPS. If you'd like, add your own commentary. You'll be helping your fellow Fools and testing your ideas at the same time. Get started now; the service is 100% free.

See you back here tomorrow for more rocket stocks.


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