There are way too many companies staring at the floor instead of the ceiling these days.
Take a look at Nasdaq-listed stocks, where there were just 47 new highs against 368 fresh 52-week lows. It doesn't get a whole lot prettier on the Big Board, with just 60 companies hitting new highs.
Worrywarts will argue that the stocks at the top of the range these days are headed for trouble. The companies coasting didn't get the memo on the soft economy and investor apathy.
Well, I don't necessarily agree. I think more than a few of the stocks that rang up new 52-week highs last week that will continue to climb in the weeks and months to come. Let me go over five names that clocked in with new highs last week that I think may just be getting started.
Last Week's High
Source: Yahoo! Finance.
Even penthouses have roofs
Let's start at the top with HomeAway.
As someone who is now just days away from being a HomeAway tenant, I've grown to appreciate the merits of the travel-booking site. If someone has an underutilized vacation property, listing it on HomeAway.com or its sister site VRBO.com provides incremental income and property management tools.
As a traveler, HomeAway offers an eclectic and growing selection of rooms, homes, and even estates that are available as short-term rentals at prices that are often cheaper than traditional lodging options.
The model works. There are now 626,661 paid listings through HomeAway's network of sites, 19% higher than a year ago. Revenue climbed 41% in its latest quarter, as HomeAway positions itself as an all-weather asset-sharing play. When times are tight, even finicky owners of second homes who would never dare rent out their summer cottages are won over by HomeAway's affordable simplicity.
AutoZone and O'Reilly Automotive run car parts stores. This has been another all-weather niche, since folks holding on to their cars longer will spend money to maintain their rides. These retailers held up well through the darkest recessionary stretches, and their fundamentals continue to improve over time.
Analysts have been scaling back their expectations of way too many companies in recent months, but they're going the other way with these two. Wall Street was banking on a profit per share of $3.57 this year and $3.99 next year for O'Reilly, and now they're targeting net income of $3.61 in 2011 and $4.09 in 2012. The same thing goes for AutoZone, where estimates per share have grown from $19.18 to $19.21 this year and $21.92 to $22.00 next year.
If I'm held to my historical stand on Coca-Cola, it would be bearish. The pop star grows too slowly for my taste, and you're seeing activist groups rally against sugary soft drinks being marketed to kids, given the rise in childhood diabetes.
However, Coca-Cola has been one step ahead of the cynics for years, expanding into vitamin-boosted water and broadening its line of diet drinks. The shares are also trading at attractive levels despite hitting new highs. Unlike the ludicrous earnings multiples and negligent dividends Coca-Cola commanded a decade ago, Coke now yields a healthy 2.7% and is trading at just 16 times next year's projected profitability.
Finally, we have Stamps.com. I've been cynical about the online postage and shipping software company over the years, knocking its flagship PC postage offering and costly PhotoStamps. However, one can't argue with results.
Revenue at Stamps.com climbed 26% in its latest quarter, and its adjusted profit of $0.45 a share was nearly twice the black ink that the pros were expecting.
Keep reaching for the stars
It's not easy to back the winners in this market. There are too many compelling bargains among the fallen.
However, these five stocks earned their highs during the market downturn for good reasons. They're growing. Their prospects are getting brighter. Last week's new highs are more of a mile marker than their ultimate destination.
If you want to see if Rick is right -- or wrong -- follow these stocks through the free My Watchlist feature.
The Motley Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Coca-Cola and HomeAway. 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.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.