"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 the companies will 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. After all, stocks can go up for many reasons, 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 18,000 stock gurus (and counting) have to say about them?


One Year Ago Today

Currently Fetching

CAPS Rating*

Greif (NYSE:GEF)




Fortune Brands (NYSE:FO)




Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A)




Altria (NYSE:MO)




Veritas DGC (NYSE:VTS)








*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.

What price love?
Unsurprisingly, Fools aren't exactly hating on today's hot stocks. To the contrary, every stock named above receives average ratings (three stars) or better on CAPS. What may surprise the momentum traders who love to buy hot stocks, though, is the prices attached to these outperformers -- they're "expensive."

That's right, Fools. Some of the best stocks on the market, and the ones that have done best by their shareholders, aren't penny-stock wonders at all. They're respectable, NYSE-listed companies with double-, triple-, and -- in Berkshire Hathaway's case -- six-digit price tags! It all proves once again what we've always preached here at the Fool: Share price just doesn't matter. What matters is the value of the corporate pie -- not how many slices it's been divided into.

Skepticism and optimism
While an "expensive" share price doesn't necessarily mean a stock is overpriced, however, sometimes a spade is, in fact, a spade. Usually, we've got at least a single one-star stock to hold up as an example of what some say is misplaced optimism. Today, though, we'll have to make do with a three-star. Hmm, which to choose?

Let's go with Nike. Rated in the CAPS community to only match the broader market's returns, the company has already beaten the S&P 500 by 2.5 percentage points over the last year. Here's what Fools have to say about the company's prospects going forward:

  • skeeter2712, who sports a respectable rating in the 69th percentile among CAPS players, squeezes Nike's toes and pronounces the company too tight: "They have already entered virtually every market, so they have nowhere else to expand into with their uninspired designs. With a mature company like this, realistic P/E should be about half what it is."

  • All-star CAPS player jmacn22, aka Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy, counters: "A new inflow of higher wholesale prices should lead to stronger profits, especially considering that it is forecasting a softening in costs. Beyond short-term economics, Nike is also priming itself for a nice push in international markets like China, India, Russia, and Brazil. These are major growth markets which should bode well for Nike."

Time to chime in
So who's right? Can cost-cutting and BRIC-selling keep Nike on the growth path, or is it time to lose these sneakers and get a new pair? On Motley Fool CAPS, you've got as much right to state your case as any wingtip-wearin' investment banker does. So tell us what you think, and may the best argument win.

BerkshireHathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Valuerecommendation. If you're a value investor, check out Inside Value -- it's free for 30 days.

Fool contributorRich Smithdoes 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 44 out of more than 18,000 raters.