"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 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 Nasdaq 52 Week High list. What does our panel of more than 77,000 stock gurus (and counting) have to say about them?

One Year Ago Today

Currently Fetching

CAPS Rating

Peabody Energy  (NYSE:BTU)

$40.83

$60.00

*****

IntercontinentalExchange (NYSE:ICE)

$106.34

$185.73

****

Lyondell Chemical  (NYSE:LYO)

$25.40

$47.76

***

Savient Pharmaceuticals 

$11.70

$18.90

***

Rigel Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:RIGL)

$11.88

$27.43

*

Five stars = highest possible CAPS rating; one star = lowest. Companies are selected from the Nasdaq 52 Week High list published on Nasdaq.com on the Saturday following close of trading last week. One year ago and current pricing (Dec. 14) provided by Yahoo! Finance. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

Everybody loves a winner
When stocks soar on the wings of success, bears become rare -- so it comes as no surprise that nearly every stock on today's list enjoys average ratings or better. One stock proves the rule, though (by being the exception to it). That's the stock we'll focus on today, as we examine ...

The bear case against Rigel Pharmaceuticals
No sooner had Rigel released news of positive phase 2 test results on its new rheumatoid arthritis drug last week, than red thumbs began turning down all across CAPS-land. Not because the news wasn't good (it was), but rather because the reaction to the news was so extreme. Rigel shares more than tripled in price in a single day -- all on phase 2 trial results for a drug that will have to compete with established offerings from Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) and Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB), among others.

Here's what some CAPS players think about the new drug -- variously known as R788 and tamatinib fosdium -- and the company that makes it:

  • embodiedheart sees "no substantial reason for [Rigel] to sustain a $25.95 stock value when they are bleeding money at a rate heavier than expectations. With no products to bring in cash flow, they needed a run up like this to bring in more money to burn."
  • NeroSagetrade explains, "RIGL is ... now trading at 32 times sales and is going to burn through their remaining cash over the next 29 months based on what amount they have left."
  • I don't know whether CAPS All-Star majakblue goes UFO-watching with Dennis Kucinich -- but he thinks the runup "looks like an artificial run-up to raise money for a company that is bleeding funds into research and has no income from products to cover. Any revenues are probably the result of meeting milestones for collaborators who will reap the bulk of the profits if eventually a product results. Currently they have no product. Nothing in phase III trials."

After last week's rise, if Rigel does decide to capitalize on its good fortune with a secondary stock offering, it will get a lot more cash for its effort today than it would have early last week. That cash could come in handy as Rigel moves R788 through the FDA testing process. Phase 3 of the clinical trials process lasts as long as five years for some drugs, and as NeroSagetrade pointed out, Rigel's cash may not last that long. (Actually, at its $55 million cash-burn rate, I expect to see its cash run out in two years or less.)

Time to chime in
That's enough from our CAPS players, and more than enough of my kibitzing. What we really want to know is: What do you think? Does the fact that Rigel's drug can be taken orally, while its rivals' solutions are all either injected or administered by transfusion, justify tripling Rigel's market cap overnight? Even though R788 hasn't yet been approved? It seems a big leap of faith to me, but hey, I'm willing to be convinced. Come on over to CAPS and make your case!

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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. 791 out of more than 41,000 rated players. Biogen Idec is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool has a disclosure policy.