Thursday's Rocket Stocks

Ask a cheapskate value investor 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 has Google touched a 52-week high on its way to yesterday's close of $693.84? Too many to count, of course. Those who panicked at the thought of buying at the top have missed out on a near seven-bagger.

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 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 nearing a five-bagger. How I wish I had listened to what Rick was telling me all those months ago.

Don't do as I did; never assume 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 73,000 pro and amateur stock pickers in our Motley Fool CAPS community, we'll seek to find 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 expected to boost net income by at least 15% annually over the next five years and which 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 (out of 5)

5-Year Growth Est.

Previous 52-Week Range

JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO)

$69.56

***

41.9%

$16.17-$72.06

MEMC Electronic Mtls. (NYSE:WFR)

$77.81

****

29.6%

$34.88-$81.82

Rio Tinto (NYSE:RTP)

$440.20

****

35%

$192.86-$458.88

Air Methods (NASDAQ:AIRM)

$55.32

*****

19%

$21.62-$54.57

Banco Santander SA (NYSE:STD)

$22.07

****

15%

$16.93-$22.34

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Finance, Motley Fool CAPS. Closing price might be below intra-day 52-week high.

A solar stock? Two days in a row? Nah. Much as I think there are interesting things going on with JA Solar, I'm located in southwestern Denver, where local favorite Rio Tinto rejected a $110 billion buyout offer from BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP  ) .

And just down the road in Englewood ...
But my primary interest today is Englewood, Colo.-based Air Methods, which operates a fleet of more than 340 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for transporting emergency patients to hospitals around the country.

Yesterday, the company released an impressive third-quarter report. Net income reached $0.89 a share, blowing away the Street's $0.70-per-share estimate. Revenue rose 12% to $101 million. And while no cash flow statement was included in the press release, Air Methods CEO Aaron Todd said that, since December, the company had produced $31.8 million in cash from operations. The balance sheet confirms the boost. Over the same period, debt is down $14.5 million, while cash and investments are up $6.3 million.

But more gains could be on the way. Here's how one of my favorite Fools (and a wizard of a stock picker), Ganndalf, put it in March:

One of the biggest companies in the airborne health care industry with [22%] market share, Air Methods is followed by just [four] analysts ... [V]aluation right now seems pretty fair. This is an industry that ought to grow with each year. For many patients / victims with critical needs, air is likely the only option in that golden hour.

I'll add that Air Methods' double-digit and rising returns on capital easily bested the numbers put up by peers CHC Helicopter (NYSE: FLI  ) and PHI. Insiders, meanwhile, still own 11.8% of the company.

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. Click here to get started now; the service is 100% free.

See you back here tomorrow for more rocket stocks.


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