Even on the market's worst days, buyout news or other short-term forces can send individual stocks up by 10%, 25%, even 50%. For example, when Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) agreed to pay $300 million for Audible (Nasdaq: ADBL), stock in the audio content company jumped more than 22% in a single day.

But beyond one-time blips like this are stocks with compelling reasons for recent momentum -- provided you can find them. That's where Motley Fool CAPS comes in.

The story behind the story
CAPS is no crowd of lemmings; its best-performing investors' opinions do more to shape each company's rating than the picks of their poorer-performing peers. So, let's use the collective wisdom of more than 83,000 CAPS investors to filter out the noise and find companies showing strong momentum.

We'll screen for companies with a stock-price increase of at least 30% in the past month, a market cap of greater than $100 million, and a beta of less than 3. That'll keep us clear of the wild, pump-and-dump land of penny stocks.

Here's a sample of stocks our screen returned.


CAPS Rating
(Out of 5)

Price Change

E*Trade Financial (Nasdaq: ETFC)



Washington Mutual (NYSE: WM)



Rite Aid (NYSE: RAD)



MDC Holdings (NYSE: MDC)






Return data is calculated as the difference between the closing price on Jan. 4 and the closing price on Feb. 5, as per MSN Money's screen. Star ranking from CAPS. Data as of Feb. 5.

Let's burrow down through this list of stocks that have thumped the market over the past month and find out why they've performed so well.

Jumping in the bounce house
Each week brings another straw of hope back into the housing sector. An increase in mortgage applications and a rate cut last week was followed by analyst upgrades this week. Many homebuilders -- including KB Home and MDC Holdings -- surged after analyst Daniel Oppenheim upgraded shares to a "buy" based on the belief that falling home prices and still-low mortgage rates will spur demand and reverse trends of sagging home sales.

Taken together, the brutally beaten-down shares and glimmers of hope have driven shares in several homebuilders up over 30% in the past few weeks. But not everyone is on the housing turnaround train yet. New home sales continue to fall, and plenty of investors believe this will end up being a false bottom with more pain to come.

CAPS investors in general remain overwhelmingly bearish on KB Home, with 635 of the 951 investors rating the company believing it will underperform the market in the future.

Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation MDC Holdings fares a little better in the CAPS community but not much. Many investors see MDC as the best of the worst in homebuilders, thanks to a more disciplined approach when the market was overheating. It's still subject to competitive pressures, however, as the whole sector grapples with falling home prices and sales.

Of the 610 investors rating the company, 428 think MDC will beat the S&P going forward, but that still leaves 182 who think otherwise at this point.

Irresistible baby
Our highest-rated momentum stock this week, E*Trade Financial, gets a lukewarm three stars. The brokerage firm's foray into subprime lending has broken the stock to the tune of 80% over the past year. But shares have surged recently, thanks to positive numbers on the brokerage side of the business in its recent quarterly earnings.

Add to that a multifaceted turnaround plan, $1.9 million in insider purchases, and a pair of Super Bowl ads that included a barfing baby, and you've got enough reason for Wall Street to start buying again.

A large majority of CAPS investors rating E*Trade in the past few weeks have been bullish, but a strong contingent maintain a thumbs-down on shares. This includes 26 of the 360 All-Stars rating the company, as well as 131 of the 1,603 investors overall giving an opinion. Investors new to E*Trade have faith in a turnaround, but it appears that many of the bears have yet to change their minds.

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

Add your take on these or any of the 5,300 stocks that 83,000-plus investors 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.

After dropping more than 50% from its high, MDC Holdings was selected by the Motley Fool Hidden Gems team for its great management and its out-of-favor status. See what other stocks Tom Gardner and Bill Mann think will beat the market -- take a free, 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Dave Mock has his own story, but he won't bore you with the details. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Dave is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. Amazon.com is a Stock Advisor recommendation; Washington Mutual is an Income Investor recommendation. The Fool's disclosure policy has the momentum of a freight train but can stop on a dime.