Even on the market's worst days, buyout news and other short-term forces can send individual stocks up by 10%, 25%, even 50%.   

For example, shares of Sutor Technology (NASDAQ:SUTR) jumped nearly 22% after the company landed four new contracts worth about $25 million to supply galvanized steel coils to distributors in China.

But beyond less-predictable events like that one are stocks with fundamentally compelling reasons for recent momentum. The trick is to find those stocks. That's where Motley Fool CAPS comes in.

The story behind the story
CAPS is no crowd of lemmings. Its best-performing members' opinions do more to shape each company's rating than the picks of their poorer-performing peers. Let's use the collective wisdom of more than 145,000 CAPS members to filter out the noise and find companies offering strong momentum.

We'll use CAPS' handy stock screening tool to quickly zero in on companies with a stock price increase of at least 30% in the past four weeks, a market cap of greater than $100 million, and a beta of less than 3.

Company

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

4-Week
Price Change

North American Palladium (PAL)

*****

32.6%

United States Steel (NYSE:X)

****

38.6%

GenVec (GNVC)

***

97.8%

US Energy (NASDAQ:USEG)

**

33.3%

Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD)

*

33.4%

Source: Motley Fool CAPS, as of Jan 8. Price return from Dec. 11 through Jan. 8.

U.S. Steel
U.S. Steel's shares have been on a tear in the past couple of months, as many investors become more bullish on the outlook for global steel. China has kept up its pace of strong demand, which some observers expect will continue to drive up global market prices for steel products. A recent Steel Market Intelligence report said it expects to see further price hikes in China, with Europe and the U.S. likely to follow, even though they haven't seen the same demand as China. Wall Street has also taken notice of the likely rise in prices; JPMorgan Chase raised its outlook on domestic steel companies, while Goldman Sachs became more bullish on U.S. Steel, Nucor (NYSE:NUE), and AK Steel (NYSE:AKS) as well.

Domestic steel producers have also been booking some wins in their fight against low-priced Chinese steel imports. With new duties being imposed by the United States government, the United Steelworkers union expects that the industry could ramp up production later this year. The bullish sentiment behind U.S. Steel has some investors hoping for a potential recovery to bring it back into the black. However, some CAPS members see more value in U.S. Steel's peers, especially considering its recent run-up in shares. Still, 93% of the 1,986 CAPS members rating U.S. Steel expect it to outperform the broader market.

Sears
While Costco and Target (NYSE:TGT) posted higher comparable sales for the month of December, Sears saw some signs of life in its Kmart discount stores. Same-store sales rose 5.3% there, which helped Sears report a slight bump in its overall December comps. Throw in a fourth-quarter earnings forecast well above Wall Street's expectations, and shares of Sears have begun to soar.

But despite the good news, Sears' stock has still been drowning in a recent sea of negative ratings in CAPS. That downward pressure has dropped the company to a one-star rating. Many investors aren't too keen on Sears' ability to compete with rivals over the long run. Today, 70.5% of the 2,200 CAPS members rating Sears believe it will beat the S&P going forward.

And you?
What's your story? Whether you buy the tale of a stock that's soaring or souring, your own research is more important than that of the CAPS community at large. But these collective opinions can make your due diligence a whole lot easier.

Add your take on these or any of the 5,300 stocks that our 145,000-plus members have covered in Motley Fool CAPS. It's totally free to be a part of the community, and the payback is more than worth it.

The Motley Fool Stock Advisor service looks for companies with strong management poised to beat the market over the long haul. To see all the stocks that have helped Tom and David Gardner beat the market by 52 points on average, take a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Dave Mock has his own story, but there's no "happily ever after" at the end of it. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Costco and Sears are Inside Value picks. Costco is also a Stock Advisor recommendation, and the Fool owns shares of it. The Fool's disclosure policy has the momentum of a freight train, but it can stop on a dime.