Although the market has handed investors some nice, consistent returns over the long term, over the short run it can often be as unpredictable as an episode of The Real World. One feature of the market that I looked at in a pair of articles is the so-called fat tail distribution -- the tendency of stocks to make huge moves that seem extremely statistically improbable.

Since then, I've been following "5-sigma moves" -- one-day price moves that are five standard deviations or more from a stock's average one-day change. Because we're looking at the price change relative to the stock's historical volatility, it's more than just a look at the same ol' jittery stocks making the most-actives list. So although Intuitive Surgical, WebEx, and NutriSystem had some big percentage changes last week, you're not going to see them here because of their higher average volatility.

As I showed in my original articles on 5-sigma moves, working with these stocks isn't as easy as selling every stock that makes a big move up or buying every stock that does the opposite (or vice versa). In some of the historical cases that I looked at, stocks continued on a major upward march even after a huge one-day move -- similarly, there were stocks that managed to continue to lose ground even after a huge one-day fall. So you need to dig in and figure out whether the move was a market overreaction or some lasting positive (or negative) fundamental change at the company.

Here are a few of the 5-sigmas from the past week:





C.H. Robinson Worldwide (NASDAQ:CHRW)




Estee Lauder (NYSE:EL)




Saifun Semiconductors (NASDAQ:SFUN)




Celestica (NYSE:CLS)




Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM)




Now, of all the things to bring sexy back to, your first thought might not be corn. That's right, corn -- just as hot as any of your flash-memory chips or solar PV cells. And it's good ol' Archer Daniels, which has been around in some form for more than 100 years, that's been pushing the comeback.

In case you're color-blind to any shade of green, corn's comeback is largely due to the recent popularity of a certain clean-burning fuel called ethanol -- the same lovely stuff that gives alcoholic beverages their kick and can be burned alone as fuel or mixed with gasoline.

Even though President Bush specifically called out ethanol in his State of the Union Address last year, its feasibility as an alternative fuel is questionable. Criticisms of ethanol include the amount of farmland needed to grow the fuel's necessary components, as well as the upward pressure it can put on commodities that are also used as food -- as we're seeing with corn right now.

Don't tell that to ADM and ethanol competitors such as VeraSun Energy (NYSE:VSE) and Pacific Ethanol (NASDAQ:PEIX), though. For the 12 months ended in September, both companies more than doubled their revenue. ADM's recent earnings report, which precipitated the 11% jump in the stock, showed its bioproducts segment growing operating profit by more than 120% for the first six months of the year. That segment accounted for 26% of ADM's total operating profit, up from 19% in the first nine months of 2005.

For shareholders, the interest in ethanol has put an extra twist in the stock. ADM's stock has always been tied to the movements of and expectations for crop prices, but now the stock is also beholden to speculation and public opinion regarding ethanol as a fuel. For investors with a stomach for some volatility, though, the stock is currently trading at just 14 times its trailing-12-month EPS and is down 23% since the highs it hit last May. And company does pay a 1.3% dividend for those willing to hang on to the stock.

Of course, if ADM sounds like too much of a leap for you right now, but you like the sound of that dividend making your brokerage account go "ka-ching," you may want to check out fellow Fool James Early over at The Motley Fool's Income Investor.

More related Foolishness:

Intuitive Surgical is a recommendation of Motley Fool Rule Breakers, the newsletter service that tracks companies shaking things up. If you'd like to see what other innovators David Gardner has recommended, try out Rule Breakers free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer encourages reader feedback and loves to hear about sweet statistical anomalies, Penn State football, and anything with jalapenos as an ingredient. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is always statistically sound.