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.

There's no doubt that now's a tough time to try and find winners out there, but to find the current league leaders, I ran a simple momentum screen on The Motley Fool's CAPS screener. The performance of each of the stocks below managed to surpass the S&P 500's impressive 14% gain over the past month, and each has been rated highly by CAPS players.


4-Week Change

12-Month Change

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

US Bancorp (NYSE:USB)




NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX)








Valero Energy (NYSE:VLO)








Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Capital IQ, and CAPS as of April 13.

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 kick off your research with a look at US Bancorp.

Providing the pep
Haven't you heard the news? Banks are fine and dandy! Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) reported earnings that were better than expected, so we can all buy banking shares with reckless abandon. Citigroup (NYSE:C), here I come!

OK, OK, I jest; everything probably isn't unicorns and lollipops quite yet. But the steamrolling momentum behind banking shares over the past month is a result of the expectation that banks' circumstances aren't quite as dire as previously thought. And there are some signs that support that. Wells Fargo and Goldman's respective earnings helped, as did the "leaked" report that the government stress tests won't lead to any bank closures.

It's hard to find much agreement on the health of the banks, but at least for the past month, the bulls have been in the driver's seat in a big way.

Looking ahead
Not all banks are equal in this mess, and so we need to separate the wheat from the chaff. As its first quarter showed, Wells Fargo most likely falls into that former camp -- though it acquired dum-dum lender Wachovia, it stayed more conservative than many of its competitors during the bubble years. Citigroup? Well, it may not get nationalized, but it's hard to think of that as anything but chaff.

US Bancorp will probably find itself in the same group as Wells. Though it hasn't avoided the financial downdraft, it seems to have kept the shenanigans to a minimum, which is paying off in spades right now.

The crowd on CAPS seems to agree. Though the stock isn't at the top five-star level, it has attracted more than 1,800 CAPS members who think it will outperform the rest of the market. At the end of last month, CAPS All-Star gea1968 called the bank "best of breed," and earlier in the month, whtcllrchaingang added:

Govt has your back on losses. One of the last men standing. Responsible lender. Remember those? Comes down to cost of funds and net interest margin. Those are GOOD right now.

Fielding your team
So do you think any (or all!) of these companies deserve a place on your All-Star team? You can share your thoughts on this, or check out more of what your fellow Fools had to say, by stopping by CAPS. And while you're there, you can also take a peek at few more of the 5,300-plus other rated stocks.

I think I heard a "booyah" somewhere out there – thanks, Stuart Scott!

More CAPS Foolishness:

Sasol is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection and a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. NYSE Euronext is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. 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 came up with the title White Men Can't Jump. He owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, but does not own shares of any of the other companies mentioned. The Fool’s disclosure policy has a 55'' vertical jump and can dunk from half court. Or so I hear.