When the clock's ticking down and the game's on the line, which of your teammates do you trust to sink a winning shot? Sure, you could dish the rock to your resident superstar -- but what if he's playing ice-cold at the moment? So instead, you pass to the guy with the hot hand, the one who'll be deemed "en fuego" tomorrow on ESPN.

Momentum investors are looking for stocks in a similar state of sizzle. But momentum by itself will only get you so far. I prefer to find high-quality stocks that also have some positive inertia on their side. It's like kicking the ball out to your team's superstars when they do have a hot hand.

Now's definitely a tough time to find winners out there. To discover the current league leaders, I ran a simple momentum screen on The Motley Fool's CAPS screener. Each of the companies below was up a double-digit percentage over the past four weeks -- despite the S&P's loss -- and has been rated highly by CAPS players.

Stock

Four Week Change

12 Month Change

CAPS Rating (Max 5)

Transocean (NYSE:RIG)

24.0%

(56.9%)

*****

National Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV)

13.7%

(58.6%)

*****

Wyeth (NYSE:WYE)

20.1%

6.2%

****

Western Digital

14.5%

(50.3%)

****

IBM (NYSE:IBM)

12.6%

(12.4%)

****

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, CapitalIQ, and CAPS as of Jan. 26.

At first glance this sure looks like a high-quality group. But, as always, I highly advise taking a close look before you throw a bounce pass in the direction of any of these stocks. In fact, I'll even tip off your research with a look at IBM.

Providing the pep
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) may not have been able to get it done, but there have definitely been some standouts in the tech sector this earnings season. I'll admit that I doubted Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), but it showed its mettle this quarter by topping analysts' estimates. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) managed to do the same, even if its top banana has been getting flambeed from all sides recently.

Go ahead and add IBM to that list. No, really! Write it in big, bold letters right up there with Apple and Google, because this company has made a Mickey Rourke-like comeback in recent years.

The top line of IBM's fourth quarter may not have looked too hot -- revenue fell roughly 1%, after adjusting for currency -- but farther down the income statement, the true impact became clear. Net income rose 12% from the prior year, while earnings per share jumped 17%. The company's sold off low-margin businesses, de-emphasizing the importance of its remaining hardware offerings. Instead, the suits from Armonk have been hitting the road to help clients do everything from tackle insurance data to secure national borders -- work that not only sounds cool, but is much more profitable for the company.

Looking ahead
Nobody gets to sit out a global recession, and that's as true for IBM as for any other company -- regional or global. The near term for IBM will be a battle between the continued transformation of the company -- which could mean continued margin improvement -- and the difficult economic environment. Fools, however, will look beyond the next year or two to the bigger picture, where they'll likely see a stronger, more profitable company that should hit the ground running when the global economy picks itself back up.

On CAPS, IBM hasn't quite reached a perfect five-star rating, but more than 2,800 CAPS members are nonetheless bullish on the stock, versus just 339 bears. In late November, CAPS member BeachExec joined the ranks of IBM fans, writing a lengthy pitch. Here's an excerpt:

In addition to its leadership position in nearly all things IT, IBM is also a serious Cloud Computing play. Pundits seem to oogle over Google when it comes to Cloud Computing. I would argue that IBM is better positioned to reap the rewards if Cloud Computing truly is a disruptive technology of the near future. Its vertical strength up and down the Cloud Computing "stack" virtually guarantees IBM fully partakes in Cloud profits. Its hardware verticals from Intel-based servers to P series servers to Z series mainframes, the ubiquity of which in Cloud Computing cannot be understated from a value perspective, provides IBM with a unique ability to create Cloud data centers at lower cost than competitors.

Fielding your team
Do you think any (or all!) of these companies deserve a place on your All-Star team? You can share your thoughts on IBM, or check out more of what your fellow Fools had to say about it or any of the other stocks above, by stopping by CAPS. While you're there, you can also take a peek at few more of the 5,400-plus other stocks rated on CAPS.

I think I heard a boo-yah somewhere out there -- thanks, Stuart Scott!

Further CAPS Foolishness:

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. National Oilwell Varco and Apple are Stock Advisor picks. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

When it comes to basketball, Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer might be the guy Ron Shelton was thinking of when he wrote White Men Can't Jump. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool’s disclosure policy has a 55'' vertical jump and can dunk from half court. Or so I hear.