No one has perfect foresight, but let's be honest: The market is full of people who, as Oscar Wilde would say, know "the price of everything and the value of nothing." Far too often, especially over the past year, investors have been pitched sensational stock recommendations, only to be left high and dry as shares crumble.

To hunt down top-recommended stocks that have been rewarding investors accordingly, I summoned our Motley Fool CAPS community to point out a few four- or five-star stocks that have been shootin' for the moon in recent months. Some are still bargains, while others are getting ahead of themselves.

While they're not formal buy recommendations, these three-month bloomers caught my attention:

Company

13-Week Price Change

Recent Share Price

Forward P/E Ratio

CAPS Rating  
(out of 5)

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT)

57%

$53.14

28.3

****

Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO)

24%

$22.80

15.0

****

Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST)

26%

$57.98

21.2

****

Mahindra Satyam (NYSE:SAY)

98%

$6.28

8.4

****

US Bancorp (NYSE:USB)

24%

$22.07

15.33

****

Data from Motley Fool CAPS, CapIQ, and Yahoo! Finance as of Sept. 23.

You can rerun the CAPS screen I used, but keep in mind that results may vary as the market changes.

A closer look at Caterpillar
In the California gold rush, the majority of people who actually did strike it rich weren't panning for gold. By and large, those who profited most did so by selling miners their axes, shovels, and gold pans -- selling into the boom, rather than falling for it.

The downside of this story is what happens when the boom ends: Everyone gets killed. Not just those who fell for it, but also the seemingly smart side business that sold into the boom.

In many ways, Caterpillar was one of those pick-and-shovel companies in recent years. The company made a fortune selling equipment into a global building bubble, but it was decimated when the fun ended. From the peak in 2008 to the bottom earlier this year, shares fell some 70%, making it one of the hardest-hit Dow Jones Industrial Average components, and not too far from the losses sustained by former Dow component Citigroup (NYSE:C).

Things are looking better today, thanks in part to evidence that housing prices' cliff dive is nearing an end. While no one's calling the bottom just yet, things like the price-to-income ratio for residential real estate are back to around pre-bubble levels. Last month, housing starts -- a particularly important metric for Caterpillar -- rose 1.5%, the strongest reading in nine months. Laugh at the stretched optimism, but things are a lot "less bad" than they were. Yet for a stock like Caterpillar, which was priced for meltdown, that's all you need to spark a tremendous rebound in share price. Since the March doldrums, shares have more than doubled in value.

What investors need to ask now is whether that tremendous run has gotten ahead of itself. At 28 times forward earnings, it's hard to say it hasn't. Things have gotten less bad, but they are maddeningly far from good. As CAPS member shreebs recently wrote:

Has had a great run with this overextended mkt banking on a V shaped economic recover, which will not happen and when the mkt realizes that,soon it will be back down the slide for a little while. Also the assumption that China will create continuous demand for infrastructure build is also a little overhyped.

I agree all around. Strong economic growth isn't yet in the picture, and other heavy-equipment companies like Deere (NYSE:DE) trade at far less lofty multiples.

Caterpillar is a good example of what investors are suddenly facing in today's market. Many good companies' prospects have grown markedly brighter in the past few months -- but not as fast as the surge in their share prices. One year ago, no one thought we'd be saying it, but optimism is back. Unfortunately, it's becoming more apparent by the day that the market's optimism is also getting ahead of itself.

Your turn to chime in
Have your own take on Caterpillar? More than 140,000 investors use CAPS to share ideas and swap opinions. Click here to check it out and speak your mind. It's 100% free to participate.

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Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Costco is a selection of Motley Fool Stock Advisor and Motley Fool Inside Value. The Fool owns shares of Costco, and has a disclosure policy.