Penny stocks are one way to double your money, though it's fraught with risk, but there are equally shiny opportunities trading at the other end of the price spectrum, too. I call 'em "three-digit stocks," yet if they're anything like Berkshire Hathaway, they can trade in the four-, five-, and six-digit range, too.

penny stock might not be a good buy simply because it's cheap, and a three-digit stock shouldn't scare you away just because it carries a hefty price tag. Handsome is as handsome does. Let's check in with the Motley Fool CAPS community to see which of the high-priced stocks below earn the greatest confidence from our investor-intelligence database:


CAPS Rating (out of 5)

3-Digit Price

Return on Capital, TTM

New Oriental Education (NYSE: EDU)




Panera Bread (Nasdaq: PNRA)




Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP)




Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's; Motley Fool CAPS.

But just because these stocks are worth a lot is no reason to jump into them blindly. Catching a tiger by the tail -- or a knife falling from on high -- can end up leaving you scratched and bleeding. That's why we recommend you use this list as a launch pad for your own research and analysis.

Highfalutin' honeys
Just because it's a for-profit education provider, New Oriental Education is often lumped in the same category as beleaguered U.S.-based for-profit schools like Apollo Group and Corinthian Colleges (Nasdaq: COCO). Instead, New Oriental's English-language training and standardized test prep for Chinese youth is more comparable to Princeton Review or the Washington Post's Kaplan unit.

Last week, its stock was put on the dean's list after scoring above the class, with earnings coming in 25% ahead of analyst expectations. Of course, the Chinese government hasn't given New Oriental the kind of scrutiny that U.S. for-profits have gotten here.

With more than 82% of the CAPS member rating New Oriental to outperform the broad market averages, it seems they're convinced it will continue to go to the head of the class. But at 36 times next year's earnings estimates, New Oriental seems a tad pricey, teacher's pet or not. Tell us on the New Oriental Education CAPS page whether it will graduate to even higher levels.

Sunday drivers
Despite beating Wall Street's earnings prognostications, investors apparently felt all the good news was baked into Panera Bread's stock price, because it's down almost 10% from its recent highs. Yet that could provide bargain-hunters with a chance to get a slice of the restaurant chain, which is showing its ability to keep pace with Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) and other fast casual chains.

Double digit top-line growth and a 100 basis point increase in operating margins were hardly a stale offering. It continues to benefit from the growth in the segment, which has enjoyed 17% growth in visits over the past three years, according to the market researchers at NPD Group, while the rest of the restaurant industry suffered steep drops in traffic. Last year, fast casual rose 6% while fast food was down 1%.

Panera's founder may question where a "fast casual" channel even exists, since consumers rarely say they plan on visiting such a restaurant. But diners and investors alike know there's a world of difference between the fare and experience served up at Panera and what they're like to find at regular fast food places.

That better dining experience leads to better expectations, and while CAPS member BBRAF recognizes Panera isn't exactly cheap like day-old bread, it's a better bet than other chains:

Still on a growth path.No longer cheap but still promising.Very well managed.I have owmned it at 50 sold at 80 and regetted selling.Buying back here.

You can add Panera to the Fool's free portfolio tracker to see if it can keep its business from running off the road.

Triple-digit titans

As Warren Buffett noted the other day at Berkshire's mass pilgrimage, railroads -- whether they're his Burlington Northern or Union Pacific -- find themselves in a very good position, with 2011 shaping up to be a particularly strong period as the industry's competitive advantages become apparent for all to see.

CAPS member BKITU concurs, finding the economy on a more stable footing allowing for greater rail growth:

As the economy recovers, large freight movements will be necessary for capital improvements.

Indeed, it may be time to place your bets on a sustained recovery. As the Fool's Christopher Barker reports, CSX (NYSE: CSX) reported a 7% year-over-year increase in freight volume, even though coal's contribution was rather meager. Union Pacific's report showed a 5% uptick. Railroads are poised to be the rolling stock in an investor's portfolio.

If you don't want to take a ride on the Reading, add Union Pacific to your watchlist and conduct yourself over to the Union Pacific CAPS page to give us your thoughts.

Count to 10
These three-digit stocks might be on their way to even higher valuations. That's why it pays to start your own research in Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made, all from a stock's CAPS page.