Wednesday's Top 5 Growth Winners

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.

Pity them, Fool.

How many times has Baidu.com touched a new 52-week high on its way to Wednesday's close of $399.67? Lots! Never assume that "rocket stocks" -- high-growth stocks that are also realizing heavy price appreciation -- are too expensive. What looks like a cliff could really be base camp on a climb toward the summit of Everest.

Rocket stocks, not rocket science
Each weekday in this column, we'll enlist the more than 78,000 pro and amateur stock pickers in our Motley Fool CAPS community to find stocks that are still climbing. We'll start with The Wall Street Journal's 52-week high lists. But we'll focus our search on stocks expected to boost net income by at least 15% a year for the next five years, and whose CAPS ratings sport at least two of the maximum five stars.

Here's what we've turned up today:

Company

Closing Price

CAPS Rating

(5 max)

5-Year Growth Estimate

52-Week

Range

Monsanto (NYSE:MON)

$115.33

*****

35%

$49.10-$116.11

Evergreen Solar (NASDAQ:ESLR)

$18.84

***

32.5%

$6.97-$18.85

American Superconductor (NASDAQ:AMSC)

$32.04

****

30%

$9.20-$32.74

GeoEye (NASDAQ:GEOY)

$36.12

*****

20%

$15.89-$36.31

Investment Tech Group (NYSE:ITG)

$48.51

****

17.6%

$35.36-$48.70

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

Our mostly small-cap list features some promising (though speculative) stocks. Yet these tiny titans can create astounding returns if they're bought before the market discovers them. Witness the well-tanned returns of Evergreen Solar, which is up more than 142% over the past 52 weeks. The S&P 500 has returned just 5% over the same period.

"I am the eye in the sky, looking at you"
Satellite surveyor GeoEye hasn't done as well but -- honestly -- can you argue with better-than 87% returns over the past year? I can't.

Nor can I ignore GeoEye's fundamentals. They all point to a business headed into orbit:

Metrics

Trailing 12 Months

2006

2005

2004

Return on capital

10.3%

6.7%

(2.2%)

(5.7%)

Return on equity

31.2%

15.6%

(21.8%)

(30.8%)

Gross margin

73.1%

63.9%

63.4%

61.8%

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

CAPS investor EnigmaDude, who claims an insider's view of the industry, believes GeoEye's dramatic improvement derives from a sustainable competitive advantage. Quoting:

This is my vocation and they really have a near monopoly on commercial satellite imagery since acquiring Space Imaging -- the only competition is from DigitalGlobe [which is] privately held (by Ball Aerospace, Hitachi, and Morgan Stanley). With continued business from the military they are likely to [increase] profits and grow their revenue stream for many years to come. And their expenses are mostly sunk costs at this point, unless one of their satellites fails.

I'll add that GeoEye sports a 0.88 PEG ratio based on 2008 estimates, which may be attracting superior institutional investors. Recent buyers include the team at Motley Fool Champion Funds pick Vanguard Explorer (VEXPX) and Richard Johnson of the five-star TCM Small Cap Growth (TCMSX) fund.

What about you? Would you buy GeoEye at today's prices? Let us know by signing up for CAPS now. It's 100% free to participate.

I'll be back tomorrow with more rocket stocks.

For every post you make to CAPS or any Foolish discussion board in the month of December, The Motley Fool will donate $0.02 to charity. So give us your 2 cents and we'll pay it forward!


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