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, Dawson Geophysical reported a 26% drop in profits in its most recent quarter, but the market expected far worse, so shares jumped nearly 19% following the report.                   

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 30% 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
(out of 5)

4-Week
Price Change

Harvest Energy Trust (NYSE:HTE)

****

72.7%

Stone Energy (NYSE:SGY)

****

72.4%

Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG)

****

41.5%

Halliburton (NYSE:HAL)

****

36.3%

Healthways (NASDAQ:HWAY)

****

30.1%

Source: Motley Fool CAPS. Price return April 9 through May 8.

Putting a price on health
Intuitive Surgical's most recent quarter reflects the impact of hospitals' reduced capital spending, with system sales slowing significantly. But its growth in accessories and services shows that hospitals aren't cutting back in use of its installed base, keeping Intuitive Surgical's stream of recurring revenue holding up strong

Many CAPS members are confident that the company's competitive advantage in its niche will get it through the recession unscathed, as the company holds a strong and protected business model. The company also sports a clean balance sheet with plenty of cash and no debt.

But the recent run-up in shares of Intuitive Surgical in recent weeks has some investors questioning whether the premium is worth it. Not everyone on Wall Street agrees with the outlook for the company: JMP Securities lowered its outlook for Intuitive Surgical, but Deutsche Bank expects the demand for robotic surgery products to continue to gain traction, and raised its price target for the stock.

CAPS members aren't unanimous either, but 95.5% of the 3,786 members rating the company expect it to beat the broader market.

Energy is not going away
The drop in energy prices from last year's highs has caused oil and natural gas producers to cut back significantly on exploration and drilling. And oilfield services companies like Halliburton felt the effects in the first quarter. Rig count in North America dropped 30% from a year ago and operating income plunged 53% in the region, though the company mostly managed to maintain its operating margin target outside of North America.

Halliburton joined companies like Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) and Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) in cutting staff to help ride out the downturn. While acknowledging some near-term pressure on the company, many CAPS members nonetheless feel Halliburton has the balance sheet to withstand a more protracted downturn. Recent signs of recovery for energy prices also have many investors pointing out a bright long-term outlook.

Other energy firms are already regaining a little bounce in their step: The jump in oil prices over the past few weeks has boosted shares of several Canadian energy trusts, including Harvest Energy. The company recently cut its monthly dividend substantially, but it still offers a significant yield, and many investors remain bullish on its long-term outlook.

In CAPS, 95% of the 2,896 members rating Halliburton are bullish, while 96.3% of the 972 members rating Harvest Energy Trust expect it to outperform the market.

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 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 with exceptional management and growth prospects, like Dawson Geophysical, which it has recommended to subscribers. We're not hiding anything -- take a free 30-day trial of the service to see what it's all about.

Fool contributor Dave Mock has his own story, but there's no "happily ever after" at the end of it. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Intuitive Surgical is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Healthways is a Stock Advisor selection. Dawson Geophysical is a Hidden Gems pick. The Fool's disclosure policy has the momentum of a freight train, but can stop on a dime.