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 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:


Recent Price

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Bull Factor

Nike (NYSE: NKE)




Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ)




Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL)




Thoratec (Nasdaq: THOR)



82.8% (Nasdaq: AMZN)




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

What happened to the rally?
Is the recession over? Warren Buffett says it is, and the Dow's still playing tag (1, 2, 3 -- not it!) with 11,000. On the other hand, the S&P just posted its first "down" week -- taking a breather after nearly two straight months of gains. Stellar earnings reports from Google and AMD didn't prevent either stock from tumbling. And now, with the SEC gunning for Goldman Sachs, it looks like all bets are off for the market's rally. Yet all these reservations notwithstanding, some stocks are still soaring -- the five named up above, for example. Will they continue to buck the tide and climb higher?

No. Not according to CAPS members. Or at least, not all of them will. Judging from their CAPS ratings, it would appear that investors are getting just a wee bit worried about the 70 P/Es at Thoratec and Amazon. And while the valuations look better at Hewlett-Packard and Apple, they're just not low enough to attract investor interest.

So of these five, which one do we still like for prospective investors?

One word: Nike
jono2k kept the bull thesis on this one simple last November: "Quality, innovation and creativity keep Nike on top globally."

And it's not just jono2k thinking that. As far back as June of last year, CAPS member Baconbits100 was singing Nike's praises, oohing and aahing over the company's "almost complete dominance of shoe and apparell market here." Citing the company's "26% revenue increase in asia pacific region," Baconbits100 called this "a sign they they are being smart and looking to emerging markets for growth."

And speaking of smart, have you seen Nike's financials lately? calreg11 says: "This company has great balance sheet. The company is at a continual growth. Largest in it's sector."

Largest ... and most profitable. Within the footwear industry, Nike's 13.2% operating margin dwarfs the industry standard 9.5% -- yet the company's 21.4 P/E is just a smidge above the average valuation in this sector (21.2).

calreg11's also right about Nike's growth trends. Great Recession notwithstanding, Nike grew its sales faster than the average company in its business -- which is all the more impressive when you consider that at $18.6 billion in annual sales, Nike is already 66 times as big as the average company it competes against.

OK. We get it. Nike's big -- but is bigger better?
I know that Nike's P/E, while better than average, is still pretty scary. Ordinarily, you don't want to pay 21 times earnings for an expected 12% grower -- even when that grower is a company of Nike's stature. But dig a little deeper into this one, and I think you'll like what you see.

Examining the company's cash flow statement, we discover that Nike actually generated free cash flow far in excess of what it reported as net profit last year -- $2.6 billion in cold, hard cash. Applied to the company's $33 billion enterprise value, that works out to just a 12.7 valuation on the business. And between Nike's 12.3% projected profits growth rate, and its 1.4% annual dividend, I'd say that's a low enough price to make the buy decision for some on this stock elegantly simple:

Just do it.

Time to chime in
Of course, that's my opinion. You are certainly free to disagree. And if you've got a different opinion of Nike, we've got just the place to state your case: Motley Fool CAPS.

Click through, and sound off.

Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Apple and Amazon are Stock Advisor picks.

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. 760 out of more than 160,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.