Even on the market's worst days, buyout news and other short-term forces can send individual stocks up by 10%, 25%, even 50%.               

For example, shares in dry bulk shipper Excel Maritime (NYSE:EXM) rose 32% last Wednesday amid a broad sector increase as a key shipping index leapt and hopes for a Chinese stimulus package grew.

But beyond less-predictable events like that one are stocks with fundamentally compelling reasons for recent momentum. The trick is to find those stocks. That's where Motley Fool CAPS comes in.

The story behind the story
CAPS is no crowd of lemmings. Its best-performing members' opinions do more to shape each company's rating than the picks of their poorer-performing peers. Let's use the collective wisdom of more than 130,000 CAPS members to filter out the noise and find companies offering strong momentum.

We'll use CAPS' handy stock screening tool to quickly zero in on companies with a stock price increase of at least 15% in the past four weeks, a market cap of greater than $100 million, and a beta of less than 3. Below is a sample of stocks that our screen returned. If you'd like, run this screen yourself -- just keep in mind that results may change as the market does.

Company

CAPS Rating
(5 stars max.)

4-Week
Price Change

Giant Interactive (NYSE:GA)

*****

16.3%

Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD)

***

32.6%

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S)

**

23.1%

Source: Motley Fool CAPS. Price return from Feb. 6 through March 6.

Giant Interactive
Online games such as the hit World of Warcraft have garnered a massive following for U.S. gaming company Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI). And the Chinese online gaming market isn't doing too shabby either, providing strong revenues for companies like NetEase and Giant Interactive. ZT Online, Giant Interactive’s flagship game, helped the company beat Wall Street’s profit and revenue expectations in its most recent quarter, and the company sees the strong performance continuing into the next quarter as well.

According to Beijing firm Analysys International, the online gaming market is expected to grow by 85% annually until 2011, a harbinger of good times ahead for Giant Interactive and the several new games it has slated for release in the near future. Citigroup has joined the chorus as well; it recently gave a bullish nod to Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) and an upgrade from sell to buy for Giant Interactive. In CAPS, 97% of the 516 members rating Giant Interactive expect it to outperform the market.

Buffalo Wild Wings
As more and more consumers choose to stay home with a Netflix movie instead of going out to eat these days, it's no surprise that many restaurants like Yum! Brands(NYSE:YUM) Pizza Hut and the Cheesecake Factory are feeling the pressure. But Buffalo Wild Wings has continued bringing in customers, with same-store sales seeing a nice bump up; fourth-quarter earnings grew a solid 26.5% from a year ago, and revenue was up 32.6%. It’s kept a tight control on food costs and has a strong balance sheet with no debt, helping it plan for expansion into new markets this year.

But some CAPS members think that the company is showing cracks, as it is running negative free cash flow and the capital-intensive nature of the business puts it at risk. While management looks for 25% revenue growth and somewhere between 20%-25% earnings growth this year, a less-than-unanimous 93% of the 4,723 CAPS members rating Buffalo Wild Wings think this will translate into stock appreciation that is above the market average.

And you?
What's your story? Whether you buy the tale of a stock that's soaring or souring, your own research is more important than collective opinions. But these collective opinions can make your due diligence a whole lot easier.

Add your take on these or any of the more than 5,300 stocks that our 130,000-plus members have covered in Motley Fool CAPS. It's totally free to be a part of the community, and the payback is more than worth it.

The Motley Fool Hidden Gems service looks for companies like Buffalo Wild Wings with exceptional management and long-term growth prospects. Check out what other gems the small-cap analyst team is recommending today with a free 30-day trial of the service.

Fool contributor Dave Mock has his own story, but there's no "happily ever after" at the end of it. Buffalo Wild Wings is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. Sprint Nextel is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Baidu is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Activision Blizzard is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy has the momentum of a freight train, but can stop on a dime.