"The bigger they are, the harder they fall." It's the worst nightmare of every investor in today's market -- buying a rocket stock just before it takes a nosedive.

Every day, WSJ.com publishes a list of stocks whose shares have just hit new 52-week highs. And every day, investors read the list and tremble -- some with greed, others with terror. On our Motley Fool CAPS investing community, these top stocks usually enjoy favorable ratings, since everyone loves a winner ...


52-Week Low

Recent Price

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Honda Motor (NYSE:HMC)




Pfizer  (NYSE:PFE)




Altria  (NYSE:MO)




Merck (NYSE:MRK)




United Technologies  (NYSE:UTX)




Companies are selected from the "New Highs & Lows" lists published on WSJ.com on Thursday last week. 52-week low and recent price provided by Yahoo! Finance. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

Everybody loves a winner
As stocks soar on the wings of success, bears become rare. And truly, when you're looking at a portfolio made up of names like Pfizer and Merck, United Tech and Altria, how can you be bearish? These bluest of the blue chips have produced big gains for investors already, and CAPS members think there's more in store.

But which of these stocks is best-positioned to reward investors in the New Year? Let's find out, as we review ...

The bull case for Honda Motor
Why buy Honda? CAPS All-Star Superball laid out the reasons for us in June: "Fuel efficient cars, great scooter line appealing to an ever expanding customer base who are very fuel conscious, and stylish, reliable motorcycles for the unfoolish." Or as zcthebeast put it more recently: "They make great, dependable products and people realize that."

Going forward, fellow All-Star investor blue2fire predicts that "their innovation will see them through to the future. Their emphasis on greener cars through the entire range (the CR-Z comes to mind) is something that other manufacturers will follow."

All of which leads airforcemama20 to conclude that this is a "favorite car company ... [and a] Solid stock to have and write covered calls on."

Time to kick some tires
So, options, huh? Well, I suppose that's one way to juice your profit. But before we go getting ahead of ourselves and doing the fancy stuff, let's take a more basic look at Honda and see if the plain-vanilla common stock is worth owning.

At first glance, you might not think so. After all, Honda is burning cash and posted a $1.1 billion loss in the last four quarters -- hardly signs of encouragement. But on the other hand, even that sizeable disappointment was a mere fraction of the money lost at rival automakers like Ford (NYSE:F) and Toyota (NYSE:TM). So relatively speaking, you could argue Honda's doing pretty OK.

... and may do better still
Unprofitable today, and priced at 22 times estimates for next year's earnings, Honda may not be the cheapest-looking stock on the lot. But if you'll peer just a little farther down the road, I suspect you may notice a sharp turn in fortunes up ahead. As early as this year, Wall Street analysts expect to see Honda return to profitability, then proceed to post profit gains of more than 25% annualized over the next five years.

Granted, 25% earnings growth is a tall order for a stock currently valued in excess of $65 billion. But if Honda can remain in the analysts' designated lane, and keep moving forward as projected, the stock looks like a bargain -- it need not fall.

Time to chime in
Of course, that's just my opinion. You are certainly free to disagree -- so what do you think, Fool? Does Honda have the horsepower to win this race, or will it stall out?

At Motley Fool CAPS, you make the call.

Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Ford Motor is a Stock Advisor recommendation.

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. 1,034 out of more than 145,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.