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3 Stocks Near 52-Week Highs Worth Selling

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Not even Greek one-year bond yields eclipsing 95% are enough to drag the bull out of this market, as dozens of companies are quickly nearing new 52-week highs. For optimists, these rallies may seem like a dream come true. For skeptics like me, they're opportunities to see whether companies trading near their 52-week highs have actually earned their current valuations.

Keep in mind that some companies deserve their lofty valuations. As fellow Fool Jeremy Phillips explained, Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL  ) definitely deserves to be trending higher, considering its diverse portfolio of products and given the fact that its dividend has increased in each of the past 48 years.

Still, other companies might deserve a kick in the pants. Here's a look at three companies that could be worth selling.

What's your Vector, Victor?
Vector Group
(NYSE: VGR  ) , the tobacco company behind brands including Eve, Pyramid, and USA isn't your normal sell candidate. The company is profitable and boasts a jaw-dropping 8.5% dividend yield. But enough signs are present that signify this could be a value trap.

First, Vector is a small-fry relative to industry peers Altria (NYSE: MO  ) and Reynolds American (NYSE: RAI  ) . Doing all of its business in the United States means being subjected to increasingly more stringent U.S. smoking legislation and lawsuits. With only $384 million in cash on hand, lawsuits could prove a crippling factor to this company's balance sheet. In addition, the company's current payout ratio of 220% seems unsustainable, which more than likely portends a dividend drop is on the horizon -- despite the fact that the company has grown its dividend in recent years. Negative shareholder equity, a potential weakening dividend, and toughening anti-smoking legislation are all reasons to pass on Vector.

Who put a quarter in Regeneron?
Seriously, who put a quarter in Regeneron Pharmaceutical (Nasdaq: REGN  ) ? The company has nearly tripled in the past year on bullish data for Eylea, a neovascular treatment for age-related macular degeneration. Developed in partnership with Bayer, data so far has suggested that Eylea works considerably better than Roche's Avastin at treating this ailment, but I'm still not convinced.

As a biotech investor, I'm often reminded that drugs which seem like a sure-shot to get past the FDA can sometimes be shot down. What I can tell you is Regeneron only has one marketable drug at the moment, Arcalyst, and it treats a very small percentage of the population. With losses mounting and operating expenses ballooning, a valuation of $6.5 billion on Regeneron simply doesn't make sense. Speculators might be willing to roll the dice at 88 times operating cash flow, but not me.

One thing you can almost count on with every market correction is an overreaction in the financial sector. Hit by everything shy of the kitchen sink, money center banks like Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) have dealt with lawsuits from AIG, BlackRock, and now the U.S. government, as well as a weakening economy and a worsening debt situation in Europe. Despite all of this, many of this nation's premier banks are trading cheaper than they have in years.

With that being said, now may be the time to part ways with ProShares Short Financials (NYSE: SEF  ) . The ETF, which is an inverse tracking index of the Dow Jones U.S. Financial Index, is a poor bet. I'm a believer that you buy banks at half of book value and sell them at two times book value. Most major U.S. banks are currently trading below book value, proving there is more reward than risk built into this proverbial house of cards.

Foolish roundup
The companies featured this week had me scratching my head wondering, "Why is this rising?" Mounting losses, tightening legislation and government induced de-risking are all reasons why these three names may not be the perfect fit for your portfolio moving forward.

What's your take on these stocks: are they sells or belles? Share your wisdom in the comments section below and consider adding Vector Group, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and ProShares Short Financials to your watchlist.

Fool contributor Sean Williams owns shares of Bank of America but has no material interest in any other companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong.The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and Altria. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that never needs to be sold short.

Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (1)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 08, 2011, at 2:59 PM, KD8IE wrote:

    Vector Group operates in two segments:

    Tobacco and Real Estate.


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