"The bigger they are, the harder they fall." It's the worst nightmare of every investor in today's market -- buying a hot stock just before it takes a nosedive.

Every day, Nasdaq.com publishes a list of stocks whose shares have just hit new 52-week highs. And every day, investors read the list and tremble -- some with greed, others with terror. On our Motley Fool CAPS investing community, these top stocks usually enjoy favorable ratings, since everyone loves a winner. But what should you do when some of CAPS' smartest investors pan one of these hot stocks?

For starters, consider using the "52-week high" list as a starting point for further research. Stocks can rise for many reasons, but a little help from Motley Fool CAPS can make it easier to figure out how worthy those reasons are. Let's see what the more than 100,000 stock gurus (and counting) in CAPS have to say about the list's latest contenders:


One Year Ago Today

Recent Price

CAPS Rating (Out of 5) :

Baytex Energy Trust  (NYSE: BTE)




El Paso (NYSE: EP)




Nabors Industries  (NYSE: NBR)




Superior Energy Services  (NYSE: SPN)




Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN)




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 recent prices 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. Four of our stocks score the maximum five stars allowed on CAPS, despite prices that are at their highs for the past year. (And with energy prices going nowhere but up, can you blame the raters?) But there's one stock here for which investors wish they could name a better price: Priceline.

This longstanding Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation reported a bumper crop of earnings on Thursday and raised its guidance for the year -- yet investors are wary. Let's find out why.

The bear case against Priceline
SBeren argues by analogy:

High-flyers like Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) & Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) are down considerably from their highs, but Priceline keeps hanging in there. They had great success with their buy-outs, which provided a lot of growth and allowed Priceline to consistently beat earnings estimates. However, I have a feeling that in addition to reaching the apex of its high growth, current economic conditions may further curtail traveling and inhibit their ability to outperform, and so Priceline's valuation will adjust downward.

CAPS All-Star thebigjigga agrees:

I don't think a lot of people will be traveling when they are losing their jobs and not using as much credit. Priceline's [price-to-earnings ratio] is just too high. Good short candidate for the next few years.

Fellow All-Star jstegma utters the following terse condemnation: "Overly optimistic growth projections."

The consensus on Wall Street is that Priceline.com will post 25.5% annual profit gains over the next five years. Optimistic as we enter a consumer-driven recession? I'd have to say yes. Yet the company has achieved growth in excess of twice that rate over the past four years -- and last week, it soundly trounced analysts' "overly optimistic growth projections" for the first quarter.

Maybe Priceline.com can keep it up. But among CAPS players ranking in the top 20% -- our "All-Stars" -- pessimism over Wall Street's optimism runs rampant. Fully 16% of All-Stars polled think Priceline costs too darn much to keep beating the Street. With the stock priced at 41 times trailing earnings, I'm inclined to agree. And if our experts are right about growth projections, and the Street's are wrong, this stock really could be headed for a fall.

Time to chime in
Of course, the aim of this column isn't just to tell you what I think about Priceline.com -- or even what other CAPS players are saying. We want to hear your thoughts. Head on over to Motley Fool CAPS, and tell us what you think.

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