"The bigger they are, the harder they fall." It's the worst nightmare of every investor in today's market -- buying a rocket stock just before it takes a nosedive.

Every day, WSJ.com publishes a list of stocks whose shares have just hit new 52-week highs. Every day, investors read the list and tremble -- some with greed, others with terror. Within our Motley Fool CAPS investing community, these top stocks generally enjoy favorable ratings, because everyone loves a winner. But not always:


52-Week Low

Recent Price

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Companies are selected from the "New Highs & Lows" lists published on WSJ.com on Friday last week. 52-week low and recent price provided by Yahoo! Finance. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

Mr. Market's wild ride
Mr. Market sounded a wake-up call last week, as fears of an SEC-led witch hunt against Goldman Sachs, combined with the inescapable volatility of earnings season, sent stocks on a roller-coaster ride. But when all was said and done, the week ended on an up note -- 634 stocks on the New York Stock Exchange reached 52-week highs, and another 363 on the Nasdaq.

Tech stocks in particular did well. Judging from the CAPS ratings being handed out, investors aren't worried that gravity will assert its pull on any of SanDisk or Corning, Apple or Microsoft, anytime soon. They seem particularly optimistic that EMC will defy the laws of physics and keep climbing indefinitely. Here's why:

The bull case for EMC
CAPS member NHWeston says there are "lots of positives" at EMC, "including alliances with Cisco Systems that may have merger potential. They also own the lion's share of VMware [NYSE: VMW] shares." (About 80%, in fact.)

Interesting number, 80%. Because according to mpappo, that's also the number of "Fortune 100 companies" for whom EMC provides data storage services.

It's 80% ... and growing. As CAPS member 1Pinkster points out, the world's only accumulating more and more information, and so: "The world needs more storage and this company provides that to business."

How far, how fast?
But is the world's need for storage growing fast enough to justify the price, here at EMC's 52-week high? Actually, I think it is.

Oh, I know what you're going to say. How can EMC possibly be worth 33 times earnings when it pays no dividend, and Wall Street says it will grow at only 16% per year over the next five years? That's more than twice the P/E ratios at EMC rivals IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ).

Well first of all, "only 16%?" C'mon. That's a pretty decent clip. Scanning that table up above once more, 16% is more growth than Wall Street expects out of either Corning or Microsoft, for example. And 16% isn't that much slower than what the Street expects to see at SanDisk and Apple. And it's a heckuva lot faster than the growth Wall Street expects to see at either of EMC's key rivals, IBM and HP.

Plus, have you checked out EMC's cash flow statement recently? While GAAP accounting standards only allowed EMC to report $1.3 billion in "profits" on its income statement, over the past four quarters this company has generated free cash flow of more than two-and-a-half times that sum -- $3.4 billion, in fact. Valued on that basis, you can argue that EMC is in fact a terrific buy today, priced at just over 11 times its enterprise value, yet expected to grow at the aforementioned 16% pace.

Time to chime in
Not only do I not expect to see EMC fall from its 52-week high, I actually expect to see the stock climb even higher. Simply put, even after its run-up, the stock looks too cheap to me. Too cheap to fall ... and too cheap to stay stuck at its current levels as well. EMC's going higher.

Or so say I. You, however, are free to disagree. In fact -- here, let me pull you up a soapbox ...

If you believe that I've got EMC all wrong, that the stock's too expensive, and doomed to decline, here's your chance. Tell me why I'm wrong.

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value choice. VMware is a Rule Breakers selection. Apple is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he was recently ranked No. 669 out of more than 160,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.