In my weekly Fool column "Get Ready for the Fall," I run Nasdaq.com's 52-week highs list through the "wisdom of crowds" meter we call Motley Fool CAPS. The result: a list of stocks that have flown so high, investors are starting to get nervous about that whole "gravity" thing. But while many stocks will indeed plunge back to Earth, some seem immune to gravity, steadily riding a rising megatrend to ever-greater heights.

Today, we'll move beyond stocks that have hit 52-week highs and identify companies now surpassing five solid years of outperformance. Which of these will thrash the market averages for another half-decade? Here are this week's leading contenders:

Company

 

Recent Price

CAPS Rating
(Out of 5):

Bull Factor

John Bean Technologies  (NYSE:JBT)

$15.84

****

97.0%

Eldorado Gold (AMEX:EGO)

$10.69

***

94.5%

IAMGOLD  (NYSE:IAG)

$11.86

***

93.2%

Ross Stores

$45.49

**

83.9%

hhgregg

$20.32

*

69.7%

Companies are selected from the "New 5-Year Highs" list published on MSN Money on Friday. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

"Everybody loves a winner"
So they say, but I'm not seeing it this week. To the contrary, the higher these stocks soar, the more nervous investors appear. Sure, our 135,000-plus CAPS members seem content to hedge their bets on the gold miners (actually, that seems poetically appropriate). But they're not at all convinced that Ross (two stars) and hhgregg (one star) deserve to be hitting all-time highs. I mean, these stores compete with Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), for goodness' sakes. Seems to me, the outcome of either contest is a foregone conclusion.

But then there's John Bean Technologies. Have you heard of John Bean? If not, don't feel bad. Fact is, this stock slipped onto today's list on a technicality. The truth is that John Bean -- which provides technology solutions for the food processing and air transportation industries -- has only traded separately from its parent, FMC Technologies, for about a year now. (So yes, technically it's trading for the highest price "in five years.")

And yet, even if it won by TKO, John Bean's four-star rating still beats every other stock on today's list. What's more, I actually think it deserves to win. Here's why:

The bull case for John Bean Technologies 

  • Earlier this year, CAPS All-Star Eerkes called John Bean: "perhaps my favorite play … This presents an opportunity to buy in at a low-cost basis in a company with huge growth prospects. Its two main technologies, airport services, and food processing are ever-growing industries. Also, unlike its parent company (FMC Tech) it has immediately chosen to declare dividends."
  • Back about the time of the spinoff, fellow CAPS All-Star investor fcfroic highlighted John Bean for its low EV/EBITDA ratio, its high free cash flow, and its high returns on equity and investment. fcfroic further praised the company's dominant market position, noting that John Bean: "sterilize[s] more than 50% of the world's shelf stable canned foods, freeze[s] more than 50% of the world's frozen foods, squeeze[s] more than 75% of the world's citrus juices" while simultaneously "load[ing] 70% of the world's overnight express packages and board[ing] 75% of US passengers. They are #1 or #2 in the core product offerings of ground support, gate equipment, military equipment, and airport services."
  • Going forward, CAPS member ValueMrk believes an independent John Bean "will be more focused into creating growth in food processing machine business and air transportation business."

I could not agree more. Whether you've heard of it or not, John Bean is a name known 'round the world, servicing airlines from Air China to British Air, to Delta (NYSE:DAL) and FedEx (NYSE:FDX) right here at home.

What's more, John Bean looks awfully tempting at a 13.7 price-to-earnings ratio and with 14% long-term growth projected for it. But the situation is actually even better than that. Over the last 12 months it has generated nearly $55 million in free cash flow -- two-thirds more than it reports as net income under GAAP. Not bad for a food canner and baggage handler, eh?

With an entirely manageable debt load, the value of the entire enterprise here works out to just over 10 times its annual free cash production. Which means that if profits grow as fast as Wall Street is projecting -- or even fall a bit short -- the stock remains a great value even after nearly tripling off of its November lows. 

Foolish takeaway
Call it a five-year high, or call it a one-year high -- I call this only the beginning to the riches that John Bean Technologies will shower on its shareholders. My advice? But this one in bulk.

Disagree? Feel free. Dissent isn't just welcomed -- it's encouraged here at the Fool. So if I'm missing a crucial piece of the puzzle on John Bean, I'd love to hear what it is. Click on over to Motley Fool CAPS, and tell me why I'm wrong.

Best Buy and FedEx are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Best Buy and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy.

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. 693 out of more than 135,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.