Surprises are part of the game when it comes to picking stocks. Sometimes this can mean bad news -- like one of your top stocks revealing that management has been backdating options.

Other times, though, the market gets caught off guard by positive surprises from stocks that most investors thought were down for the count. In this situation, investors who stood by the stock often break out into a chorus of "I told you so," as short sellers are forced to figure out just how much pain they can take.

To dig up some of these unloved stocks that have been defying naysayers, I'm turning once again to our Motley Fool CAPS community. Each of the companies below had received a one-star rating (the lowest) from our community of investors just 30 days ago:


30-Day Return

One-Year Return

Current CAPS Rating

Dow Jones (NYSE:DJ)




Align Technology (NASDAQ:ALGN)




Imergent (AMEX:IIG)




Accredited Home Lenders (NASDAQ:LEND)








Novastar Financial (NYSE:NFI)




Acordia Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ACOR)




Data from Motley Fool CAPS as of May 2.

It's important to remember that some of these stocks, particularly the smaller, more volatile ones, could just as easily reverse these big gains over the next 30 days. In some cases, though, the strength could be a sign that the company's prospects have changed for the better, or that it had been beaten down just a little too far.

So the question with these stocks is: Are they better than CAPS players had thought, or are they just singing that proverbial swan song? The best way to get a feel for where these guys are headed is to dig in and do some research. I thought I'd kick you off with some thoughts on Align Technology.

Smile, we're talkin' stocks!
We all know the importance of first impressions, and a nice, straight smile is one the first things people are likely to notice about you. Approximately 75% of the U.S. population, though, suffers from malocclusion -- more commonly known as crooked teeth. Besides the effect it has on appearance, malocclusion is also thought to contribute to other maladies such as gum disease and tooth decay.

This is a treatable condition, and anyone who has been through middle school in the U.S. undoubtedly knows what braces, the traditional treatment, look like. Besides their clunky appearance, braces can also cause significant discomfort, make proper oral hygiene more difficult, and damage the roots of teeth. Align Technology's Invisalign solution, a nearly invisible course of treatment for malocclusion, addresses these shortcomings.

According to Align, roughly 2 million Americans are treated for malocclusion every year. Not a bad market size! The only drawback is that the dentist has to convince patients that Invisalign is worth its higher price tag.

And though the potential sounds great, the results have been less impressive. After going from basically zero in 1999 to more than $100 million in 2003, revenue actually fell slightly from 2005 to 2006. Top-line growth for 2007 is expected to come in at 33%, but it may be questionable whether this is enough to justify a 2007 P/E multiple of more than 60.

Profitability has also been an issue. After turning a profit in 2004 and a much slimmer profit in 2005, the company fell back into the red for 2006. First-quarter results showed the bottom line pointing in the right direction again, though, and the company is expected to finish 2007 on the plus side.

There is a healthy amount of skepticism on CAPS around Align's stock -- particularly in light of its premium valuation. But despite the one-star rating, there is also a good amount of positive sentiment floating around.

  • All-Star player TheTaxShelter shares some personal experience: "This company seems to be dominating the market for retainers even for those kids who still use the traditional braces method. I have six boys, and one by one they are getting braces, and so far they have all used the new Invisalign retainer."
  • MylesPatrick, another CAPS All-Star, knows what happens when competitors disappear: "Align just recently bought the intellectual property rights from their only major competitor, and now they have a monopoly on Boardwalk and Park Place."

So do you think that Align's invisible product will produce some very visible results? Or is the stock's price too much to sustain? Head over to CAPS and let the community know what you think. While you're there, you can start your research on any of the other stocks listed above -- or any of the 4,400-plus stocks on CAPS.

More CAPS Foolishness:

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer didn't see these particular moves coming, but he's rarely surprised at Mr. Market's general tomfoolery. You can check out Matt's CAPS portfolio here, or visit his blog. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy thinks Peet's coffee beats Starbucks hands down.