There are plenty of strategies for picking stock winners, from finding low-P/E stocks to seeking companies selling at a discount to their future cash flows. But what if we could whittle down our list of prospects beforehand, to find those whose engines are just getting warmed up?

Using our investor intelligence database at Motley Fool CAPS, I screened for stocks that investors marked up before their share prices rose over the past three months. My screen returned just 139 stocks when I ran it, no doubt reflecting the market's turmoil during that time, and included these recent winners:


CAPS Rating, 7/23/12

CAPS Rating, 10/22/12

Trailing 13-Week Performance

Nautilus Group




Virginia Commerce Bancorp




Gibraltar Industries




Source: Motley Fool CAPS Screener; trailing performance from Oct. 19 to Jan. 18.

While this screen might tell us which stocks we should have looked at three months ago, we'd rather find the stocks that we ought to be looking at today. I went back to the screener and looked for stocks that were just bumped up to three stars or better, sport valuations lower than the market's average, and haven't appreciated by more than 10% in the past month.

Of the 35 stocks the screen returned, here are three that are still attractively priced, but which investors think are ready to run today:


CAPS Rating, 10/22/12

CAPS Rating, 1/18/13

Trailing 4-Week Performance

PE Ratio

BBVA Banco Frances (NYSE:BFR)










Harmony Gold Mining (NYSE:HMY)





Source: Motley Fool CAPS Screener; trailing performance from Dec. 21 to Jan. 18.

You can run your own version of this screen over on CAPS; just remember that the data's dynamically updated in real time, so your results may vary. That said, let's examine why investors might think these companies will go on to beat the market.

BBVA Banco Frances
Argentinean banking giant Banco Frances won a stay of execution last November, when the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the country didn't need to first pay creditors who hold bonds the government defaulted on before it paid investors who own restructured bonds. A lower court ruling had sided with the creditors and put Argentina on a course to default on its sovereign debt.

Banco Frances is owned by Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (NYSE:BBVA) and has benefited from the profligate spending habits of Argentina's president, Cristina Kirchner, who's been emulating the path blazed by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, nationalizing some businesses and forcing others to invest locally.

Inflation is running rampant in Argentina because of those policies, but the monetary expansion has fueled loan growth, which helped Banco Frances widen deposits, lend more money, and improve its asset quality. With the main risk removed for the time being, the banking concern ought to see further improvements in its stock price.

Hidden behind many small companies' site search functions is Blucora, a metasearch specialist that takes results from Google, Yahoo!, and other search leaders and turns it into a usable product. You probably knew it as InfoSpace before it changed its name last year, or from its search engines Dogpile and MetaCrawl. It gets a small cut of the click-through revenues generated by the results it displays.

Perhaps more important to its future -- yet more incongruous -- is its tax-prep software division, TaxAct, that it bought a year ago, a well-regarded player in an industry dominated by Intuit's (NASDAQ:INTU) TurboTax and H&R Block (NYSE:HRB), which tried to acquire it several years ago. Because tax prep is highly seasonal -- only the first four months of the year generate any real revenues -- Blucora is moving into its prime season and should see a big uptake to this growing business.

Harmony Gold Mining
Precious-metals mining in South Africa is fraught with risk, as evidenced by the labor disruptions at AngloGold Ashanti's (NYSE:AU) mines, Gold Fields' (NYSE:GFI) loss of 35,000 ounces of gold production because of unrest, Barrick Gold's (NYSE:GOLD) spinoff of its South African division to insulate itself from it, and even the death of two Harmony Gold Mining workers amidst labor riots. Harmony subsequently closed the mine and is in negotiations with labor parties to reopen it and have its workers protected.

While this all makes South Africa an unsavory place to do business, should Harmony get its mine reopened it could be a lucrative tract, even if the company may have to confront power grid outages and the potential for the nationalization of assets. Harmony is the third largest gold producer in South Africa, and its once profitable Kusasalethu has a 7.1-million-ounce mineral reserve with the potential to produce between 260,000 and 300,000 ounces of gold per year for 25 years. That's a hard asset to shut down forever, and I believe the unions will come to their sense over the lost jobs.


Fool contributor Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google and Intuit and owns shares of Google and Intuit. 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.