"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, Nasdaq.com 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 High 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 High list at Nasdaq.com. What does our panel of more than 75,000 stock gurus (and counting) have to say about them?

One Year Ago Today

Currently Fetching

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Partner Communications  (NASDAQ:PTNR)




KT Corp.  (NYSE:KTC)




Fresenius Medical  (NYSE:FMS)




Cellcom Israel  (NYSE:CEL)*




LaBarge  (AMEX:LB)




Companies are selected from the "NASDAQ 52 Week High" list published on Nasdaq.com on the Saturday following close of trading last week. Year-ago and current pricing provided by Yahoo! Finance. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.
*Cellcom Israel shares went public on Feb. 5, 2007, priced at $20.

Everybody loves a winner
The old saying holds true again today, as we find not a single company on our list rated an underperformer on CAPS. To the contrary, our community of lay and professional investors thinks that the majority of these stocks -- already at their highs for the year -- are well-positioned to keep on outperforming the S&P 500.

Build-a-bear, anyone?
The closest thing we've got to a "bearish" sentiment here attaches to electronics contractor LaBarge. But as bears go, this group seems positively housebroken. Only three out of 30 investors polled think the firm will underperform the market. (Granted, all three of these bears are "All-Stars," meaning they rank in the top 20% of CAPS players.) And none of them have penned pitches explaining their negativity on the stock.

No matter. I think I can flesh out a bear thesis on this one myself. First off, the consensus of the three analysts who track the firm is that LaBarge will grow its profits no faster than 15% per year over the next half-decade. Objectively, that's a respectable clip -- but relative to the firm's 20 P/E, it makes the stock look a mite expensive.

That's not the worst of the bad news, either, because the P/E at LaBarge overstates this company's true profitability. Over the past 12 months, the firm reported $11.5 million in net earnings under GAAP -- but free cash flow of just $2.1 million. That gives the firm a trailing price-to-free cash flow ratio in excess of 100. Nor is this an isolated instance of accounting profits trumping cash profits. Over the five-year period ending in July 2007, LaBarge reported earning a total of $41 million under GAAP. Its cash flow statement, however, shows that the firm generated less than half that sum in cash profits -- just $19.2 million.

LaBarge's customer list includes such A-list aerospace names as Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) and United Technologies (NYSE:UTX). But its gross margins earn a D-minus at 20% ... and falling. With a sky-high price, sub-sea-level cash profits, and profitability in a tailspin, I wouldn't invest in LaBarge today.

Time to chime in
See how simple it is to write a CAPS pitch? Why, to paraphrase the GEICO commercials, "It's so easy, a bear could do it." And LaBarge bulls -- never fear, you can play, too. Come on over to Motley Fool CAPS and read me your riot act.

Motley Fool CAPS: It's fun, it's free, and it just might make you famous.

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 No. 615 out of more than 75,000 players. Partner Communications is an Income Investor pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.