"The bigger they are, the harder they fall." This old saying sums up the worst nightmare of every homeowner, every gold buyer, and every investor in today's market. Dare ye buy at the top?

Every day, MSN Money publishes a list of the market's top stocks -- the companies whose shares have just hit their highest intraday price of any time in the past 52 weeks. Every day, investors read this list and tremble -- some with greed (big mo', baby!), and others in pure, unmitigated, acrophobic terror (whatever you do, don't look down).

Over on Motley Fool CAPS, thousands of investors just like you are watching these same companies and voting their gut on whether they'll keep rising or stumble and fall. Usually, the ratings wax optimistic as stocks hit new highs -- because everyone loves a winner. But what do you make of it when some of the smartest investors out there are panning a hot stock?

You could heed them. You could ignore them. You could take the stock tickers and construct anagrams from 'em. For my money, though, the best course of action is to use the "52-week highs" list as just a starting point for further research. Stocks can go up for many reasons, after all, and it's up to you to decide how worthy those reasons are. But thanks to Motley Fool CAPS, now you don't have to make the decision alone.

With that said, let's meet today's list of contenders, drawn from the latest "52-week highs" list at MSN Money. What does our panel of 16,000 stock gurus (and counting) have to say about them?

One Year Ago Today

Currently Fetching

CAPS Rating

Canadian Imperial (NYSE:CM)




Bank of Ireland (NYSE:IRE)




Prudential (NYSE:PRU)




Merrill Lynch (NYSE:MER)




Fairfax Financial (NYSE:FFH)




Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC)




SunTrust (NYSE:STI)




*Five stars = highest possible CAPS rating; one star = lowest. Companies are selected from the "New 52-Week Highs" list published on MSN Money on the Saturday following close of trading last week. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

Can you feel the love?
Unsurprisingly, Fools aren't exactly hating on today's hot stocks. To the contrary, only one of these stocks receives a lower-than-average rating (SunTrust). And yet, over the last 52 weeks, SunTrust hasn't just hit a new high in its own right, it's edged out the S&P's own gains by more than 1%. So why are Fools giving SunTrust the bum rush? Let's turn to our panel of experts:

  • CAPS all-star TMFPhila considers SunTrust a "Prime takeover target for major banks looking to profit from the growing Southeastern U.S. market," but warns that "Without a takeover bid, this stock will hover in the $65-$75 range." (Hmm. Apparently not, Phila.)
  • CAPS newcomer rtowles takes a more management-focused view, arguing simply that "Phil Humann [is] incapable of running a bank this size."
  • Finally, midfield player hirshey takes an appropriately golden mean-ish stance, noting Warren Buffett's interest in the stock, and deferring to the Oracle of Omaha's wisdom, despite thinking the stock is only "slightly undervalued."

Time to chime in
Who's right? Who's wrong? On Motley Fool CAPS, you've got as much right to state your case as any wingtip-wearin' investment banker. Tell us what you think, and may the best argument win.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked 457 out of more than 16,000 raters. The Fool's disclosure policy is here.