In my weekly Fool column "Get Ready for the Fall," I run'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 its pull, 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:


Recent Price

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Bull Factor

Vanguard Natural Resources (NYSE:VNR)












United Therapeutics  (NASDAQ:UTHR)




Green Mountain Coffee (NASDAQ:GMCR)




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

Hot stocks leave investors cold
Last month's troubling downturn notwithstanding, each of the five stocks named above has continued to surge. But which of the five has the best chance of repeating that feat? The CAPS votes are in, and the verdict is clear.

Vanguard Natural Resources
Why buy a natural gas producer in the dead of winter? endfile keeps it simple: "baby it's cold outsided." (I'm assuming that little stutter is added for effect.)

Of course, it's been cold outside for a while now -- and Vanguard boosters have been bullish even longer. Way back in January 2009, Usagisama predicted:

energy is going through the roof in 2009, and this one pays a dividend. That's spectacular. I'd say it's a strong buy, esp. at it's recently depressed share price.

Well, Usagisama was wrong about nat-gas prices rising -- but right about Vanguard, which has outperformed the market by more than 167 percentage points since he picked it.

Similar bullish sentiments were expressed back then by CAPS All-Star SkinInvest, who commented: "Oil and gas are ridiculously cheap right now. This will change once all this infrastructure building gets under way in the next 1-2 years." And once again -- wrong on the megatrend, but right on the money with Vanguard. Trouncing even Usagisama's returns, SkinInvest is up more than 200 points on Vanguard.

But now that Vanguard's tripled in price, are there any more profits to be had? I don't think so. Vanguard's gotten ahead of itself, Fools.

The company boasts proven oil and gas reserves equivalent to 108.5 billion "cubic feet equivalent." With natural gas currently fetching $5.29 per million British thermal units on the spot market, this values Vanguard's reserves at roughly $587 million in asset value -- 13.5% above the company's current enterprise value.

Sounds cheap, you say? Perhaps, but gas-industry goliaths like Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) and Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) are selling for much bigger discounts. Very roughly speaking, pretty much any nat-gas company you find these days is selling for half the value of its still-in-ground assets. Everyone but Vanguard, that is.

Time to chime in
Make no mistake -- I'm still awfully optimistic about nat-gas stocks in general. But with valuations so large on the large caps, I really don't see why an investor would waste time on small fry like Vanguard, offering lesser discounts to intrinsic value. To me, it's a no-brainer: Send Vanguard to the back of the line, and instead place your bets on the best.

That said, you are free to disagree. If you believe that Vanguard's got untapped potential, here's your chance to tell us why.

Motley Fool CAPS: It's fun, it's free, and it just might make you famous.

Chesapeake Energy is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Netflix is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Chesapeake Energy.

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. 635 out of more than 145,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.