The market started the new year off with a bang, but not everyone went along for the ride. So just because your stock strapped on a rocket pack and went higher, resist the urge to high-five everyone in the cubicles next to you. Smart investors won't celebrate until they know that upward leap was justified. Without a fundamental basis for the bounce, these stocks can quickly make the return trip down.
Is now the time to lock in profits, or is this just the first step toward even higher valuations down the road? Let's examine several stocks that just hit the afterburners, and see whether they're truly headed into orbit.
CAPS Rating (out of 5)
ProShares Ultra Silver
The markets jumped 180 points yesterday, or 1.5%, so stocks that went appreciably higher are pretty big deals.
When you're hot, you're hot
Sales of General Motors' Chevy Volt have been disappointing, leading the carmaker to declare that it won't hit its goal of 10,000 cars. Through November, GM is nearly 40% short of its goal. Despite that, it still plans on churning out 60,000 Volts in 2012, with 45,000 intended for the U.S. market and the rest for export. That's big talk for a highly subsidized vehicle -- one study pegs it at $250,000 per car; no wonder they're pushing ahead! -- but it ought to give investors pause.
The carmaker is already under investigation for its electric-car batteries that caught on fire, and A123 Systems notified privately held EV carmaker Fisker that all of its Karma car batteries had a problem. A123's stock got a bounce, though, because Fisker says most of the problems have already been fixed.
Well, good for it, but weak demand for electric vehicles and problems cropping up on the highest-profile EVs aren't going to set the sales records on fire. GM will be moving to A123 from LG Chem for its Chevy Spark, but we'll wait to see whether that generates any more enthusiasm from the market.
CAPS member davfoo hopes for GM to also turn to A123 to supply Volt batteries, but Truth2Power says if it can't stop hemorrhaging cash in the meantime it's going to crash and burn anyway. With the government propping up a car for the wealthy, which even they don't want (GM says the average Volt owner makes $170,000), the rest of the market will decline. I've marked it to underperform as well, but add A123 to the Fool's free portfolio tracker and see whether it can get its engine running.
Call off the dogs
Gold and silver got a big boost on the first trading day of the year, so it's no wonder ProShares Ultra Silver rose as well. As an ETF that attempts to juice its returns by investing in swap agreements, futures contracts, and other complex financial instruments to obtain double the performance of silver, it will be more volatile than the metal itself -- and score some big gains when the gray metal rises.
But with silver below $30 an ounce, it explains why the ETF is off more than 40% for the past year. Considering several silver miners did quite well last year, investors would be well advised to tread carefully when using ETFs such as Ultra Silver, since they're really designed for day traders. If you want to buy silver, check out Endeavour Silver, which was up 38% in 2011, or First Majestic Silver, which rose 13%. Even Hecla Mining, which lost half its value last year, would still have been a better bet than the ETF. As even ProShares notes, they're really not appropriate for long holding periods.
But if the silver market is going up, investors can't help believing Ultra Silver will rise, too, and the juiced gains look attractive. Still a quarter of CAPS members rating the ETF think it will underperform the market overall, and 40% of the All-Stars weighing in agree.
Openwave aims to give developers a single service through which they can distribute apps to iPhones and Android-based smartphones, but the rise in its stock yesterday seems to have been more about getting caught up in the market's euphoria than anything the company is doing.
While such ephemeral gains portend future drops in value -- shares were down 5% on the day -- there is hope for the future. It recently signed a licensing agreement with Microsoft
The CAPS community remains supportive regardless, with 88% of those rating it seeing it outperforming the broad indexes. But the low two-star rating they've assigned the stock suggests they think there are better places for your money.
Add Openwave to the Fool's free portfolio tracker to be alerted to any future deals signed down the road and to see whether the next big move in its stock is based on fundamental reasoning.
Going into orbit
These three companies may have divergent futures despite their short-term bounce, so check out for free two companies The Motley Fool thinks have a can't-fail future. Hurry, though, because the free look is available for a limited time only.
Fool contributor Rich Duprey holds no position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, and General Motors and creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.