I love bargain stocks, especially when they're hitting 52-week lows. Still, it can be instructive to also look at stocks that are riding high. For one thing, they can make good sell candidates. More optimistically, we may be able to find a few companies that can continue their upward climbs.

In this series, I'll be searching industry-by-industry for stocks reaching 52-week highs. That way, we'll be able to make a few quick comparisons among semi-related companies.

There are 24 industry groups as defined by the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS). Food and staples retailing is one of them.

Below are the top seven companies in this space (by market cap) that are within spitting distance of their 52-week highs.

Company

Recent Price

52-week Low

52-week High

P/E Ratio (Trailing)

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT)

$53.95

$47.80

$56.27

13.8

Costco Wholesale (Nasdaq: COST)

$64.11

$53.40

$65.46

21.9

Sysco (NYSE: SYY)

$29.55

$25.90

$31.99

14.9

Kroger (NYSE: KR)

$21.76

$19.10

$24.12

NM

Companhia Brasileira de Distribuicao (NYSE: CBD)

$36.81

$28.44

$39.58

14.8

Whole Foods (Nasdaq: WFMI)

$39.86

$24.90

$43.18

30.1

Casey's General Stores (Nasdaq: CASY)

$41.38

$29.00

$44.68

19.3

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's, and Yahoo! Finance.

What's interesting about this list is the overlap with the 52-week lows list for the same industry group. See that article here.

The first five on this list are also on that list. Why? Low volatility. It may be a slight hindrance as we try to separate high-flyers from bottom-dwellers, but this low volatility can be quite comforting in a volatile economy. A good strategy on stocks like these is to find a great business (like Wal-Mart and Costco) and try to buy in nearer the lows than the highs -- every additional percentage point counts. Wal-Mart has been particularly attractive recently.

If you are interested in reading more about any of these stocks, add them to My Watchlist to find all of our Foolish analysis on them.

Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Whole Foods. He posts his favorite articles on his Twitter feed.

Costco Wholesale, Sysco, and Wal-Mart Stores are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Costco Wholesale and Whole Foods Market are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Sysco is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. The Fool owns shares of Costco Wholesale, Sysco, and Wal-Mart Stores. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.