"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 52-week high. Every day, investors read this list and tremble -- some with greed (big mo', baby!), and others in pure, 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. 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 more than 23,000 stock gurus (and counting) have to say about them?

One Year Ago Today

Currently Fetching

CAPS Rating

Omnicom (NYSE:OMC)




Ipsco (NYSE:IPS)




Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP)








Entergy (NYSE:ETR)




American Real Estate (NYSE:ACP)








*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, the majority of the stocks on the above list receive average ratings (three stars) or better. 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- and Nasdaq-listed companies with triple-digit price tags. Proving 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
But zeroing in on the two stocks on today's list that receive below-average ratings, I'm surprised to encounter for-profit educator Strayer. I've written more than once about the company myself, here on Fool.com. And those who've been reading know that I'm pretty impressed with Strayer's performance. Aside from some quibbles over bad debts, about the only thing I'm less than thrilled with here is the valuation. Not the "price," mind you, but the price in relation to the profits that Strayer earns, and the rate at which it grows them. Charging 34 times trailing earnings for a company expected to grow its profits at 18% over the next five years -- that seems a little rich for me.

Interestingly, that's not an uncommon worry among CAPS players. Of the eight investors who've written "pitches" on the stock so far, three cite the stock's valuation as worrisome.

On the other side of the debate, mathematics professor Robert628496 (who I'm guessing knows a thing or two about education) argues that "Strayer is beautifully positioned, in terms of their product, their management, and their business operation to ride this rocket to great heights." Robert628496 goes on to confide that Strayer is "just at the beginning of its growth cycle. They are currently concentrated in the southeast and are just beginning to break out of that region. They are pursuing their goal of nationwide expansion at a sensible but steady rate."

Who's right? Who's wrong? On Motley Fool CAPS, you've got as much right to state your case as any of us "professional" Fools. 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 68 out of more than 23,000 raters. FedEx is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. The Fool has a disclosure policy.