Even on the market's worst days, buyout news and other short-term forces can send individual stocks up by 10%, 25% -- even 50%.        

For example, shares in Pepsi Bottling Group rose 22% and PepsiAmericas 26% recently when PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) announced that it wants to acquire its two biggest bottlers to gain control of its North American distribution.

But beyond less predictable events like that one are stocks with fundamentally compelling reasons for recent momentum. The trick is to find those stocks. That's where Motley Fool CAPS comes in.

The story behind the story
CAPS is no crowd of lemmings. Its best-performing members' opinions do more to shape each company's rating than the picks of their poorer-performing peers. Let's use the collective wisdom of more than 130,000 CAPS members to filter out the noise and find companies offering strong momentum.

We'll use CAPS' handy stock screening tool to quickly zero in on companies with a stock price increase of at least 35% in the past four weeks, a market cap of greater than $100 million, and a beta of less than 3. Below is a sample of stocks that our screen returned. If you'd like, run this screen yourself -- just keep in mind that results may change as the market does.

Company

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

4-Week
Price Change

RF Micro Devices

*****

108%

Precision Drilling Trust (NYSE:PDS)

*****

58.4%

A-Power Energy Generation Systems

****

55.3%

Melco Crown Entertainment (NASDAQ:MPEL)

****

41%

MGM MIRAGE (NYSE:MGM)

**

113.3%

Source: Motley Fool CAPS. Price return from March 27 through April 24.

Betting on drill bits
Precision Drilling Trust completed its acquisition of onshore drilling contractor Grey Wolf in December, helping to boost its top line by 31% in the first quarter and giving it an additional 123 rigs. But the company is also saddled with more debt amid a volatile market in which oil services companies like Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) are reporting big drops in demand.

Precision Drilling Trust has taken steps to get its unwieldy debt under control, suspending cash distributions to unit holders and acquiring additional debt and equity financing from AIMCo, an investment company based in Alberta. The new financing will painfully dilute the current share base in exchange for allowing the company to repay its high-interest bridge loan (a short-term loan) and help bring its blended interest rate, or average rate, down to 8.4% from about 10.8%. On the bright side, management expects to save about $70 million annually in interest expenses, which had eaten into earnings in the first quarter.

Even with the dilution, the vast majority of CAPS members think it's the best move for the company, and 97.5% of the 1,461 members rating Precision Drilling Trust say they believe it will beat the market.

Game on ... or not
Plain and simple: Gaming is in a world of hurt. Consumers are losing discretionary income and staying out of casinos, and Las Vegas has been hit particularly hard. The drop in gaming activity, coupled with the high debt of many operators, has prompted Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) to raise more equity and Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) to amend debt agreements. For MGM MIRAGE, its shares have swung wildly as it contemplates alternatives to deal with its debt.

MGM MIRAGE recently obtained a short-term waiver for a debt covenant that will buy it a few more weeks to work out funding on its giant CityCenter project in Las Vegas. It's using all resources necessary to keep the project moving forward, including fronting cash to contractors that was supposed to come from funding partner Dubai World. Government-owned Dubai World has withheld payments and even sued MGM MIRAGE, alleging mismanagement of the project, and pressure is ratcheting up because another $200 million construction payment is due at the end of the month.

The company is already trying to raise capital by selling some of its casinos, but there are rumors that its Las Vegas property may be put on the block, in a further bid to raise more capital and hold off one of its investors, Carl Icahn, who is pushing it to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The path may even involve major investors pumping more money into MGM MIRAGE. At this point, many CAPS members are leery of putting capital into the company, with 25% of the 926 members rating MGM MIRAGE saying they are bearish on the stock.

And you?
What's your story? Whether you buy the tale of a stock that's soaring or souring, your own research is more important than collective opinions. But these collective opinions can make your due diligence a whole lot easier.

Add your take on these, or any of the more than 5,200 stocks that our 130,000-plus members have covered, in Motley Fool CAPS. It's totally free to be a part of the community, and the payback is more than worth it.

Many solid companies that pay great dividends have been recommended in the Motley Fool Income Investor service. To see all the stocks that help the service beat the market, take a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Dave Mock has his own story, but there's no "happily ever after" at the end of it. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. PepsiCo is an Income Investor selection. Melco Crown Entertainment and Precision Drilling are Global Gains picks.The Fool's disclosure policy has the momentum of a freight train, but can stop on a dime.