Whoa! What Just Happened to My Stock?

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U.S. markets rose on continued hopes for European normalcy, yet even though your stock strapped on a rocket pack and went even higher, resist the urge to high-five everyone in the cubicles next to you. Smart investors won't celebrate until they know that upward leap was justified. Without a fundamental basis for the bounce, these stocks can quickly make the return trip down.

Is now the time to lock in profits, or is this just the first step toward even higher valuations down the road? Let's examine several stocks that just hit the afterburners, and see whether they're truly headed into orbit.

Company

CAPS Rating 
(out of 5)

Wednesday's Change

Pacific Biosciences of California (NAS: PACB) ****28.2%
A123 Systems (NAS: AONE) ***26.6%
Zhongpin (NAS: HOGS) ***18.8%

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) rising 102 points yesterday, or 1%, stocks that went appreciably higher are pretty big deals.

Testing, testing
There was no reported news for Pacific Biosciences of California that should drive it so much higher, but a few weeks ago, the development-stage gene-sequencing firm plummeted after reporting it was cutting 130 positions, or 28% of its workforce. Layoffs are a widening problem, and not just for the biotech industry, even though Dendreon (NAS: DNDN) was lopping off a quarter of its staff. The financial services industry in New York, for example, has lost more than 4,000 jobs since April and could see another 10,000 jobs disappear by the end of next year.

But the market for genetic analysis technology hasn't gained the traction Pacific Biosciences was anticipating. This was underscored by the early reporting of third-quarter results by Illumina (NAS: ILMN) , which found research funding a dicey proposition, causing it to badly miss expectations. PB has plenty of cash to get through this rough patch, but turning profitable remains a distant goal for now.

CAPS member NeuroNerd admits that the growth curve will be flatter than originally expected, but Pacific's recurring revenue business will prove profitable in the future.

I think it is fair to say that adoption will be slower than management's original optimistic projections because of the price tag; however, my suspicion is that the razor-and-blade model will allow them to eventually become profitable as specialized centers like ours adopt them. They really do have capabilities that leave the competition in the dust for certain applications.

Add Pacific to your watchlist if you're interested in learning more about its progress, and get closer to the opinions of other investors on the Pacific Biosciences of California CAPS page.

Driving off
The Chevy Volt from General Motors (NYS: GM) was a bit of a bait-and-switch ploy by the automaker since the car was not really an all-electric vehicle as it was originally touted, but something more of a hybrid. And despite all the hoopla -- and the tax money spent -- GM sold just 723 Volts in September and a grand total of 3,895 cars since they rolled (silently) off the assembly line. There's just not much demand for electric cars, though the Nissan (NAS: NSANY) Leaf has sold more than 27,000 cars since it was launched last December.

So although investors in electric-car-battery maker A123 Systems cheered the news of GM's decision to introduce a real all-electric vehicle for the 2013 market, the Chevy Spark, don't expect too much to come of it. GM had once promised 10,000 Volts sold in 2011, and unless there is a sudden swelling of demand, it's going to fall far short.

In August, A123 was selected by GM to be its battery maker, and the company said it expected to produce "tens of thousands" of battery packs for them. But GM still has to prove it can make an electric car the public wants.

CAPS member kahunacfa isn't willing to nitpick over whether the GM cars will be hybrids or all-electrics, as either style will generate battery sales for A123.

AONE123 is one of the leading suppliers of Li batteries. They supply the batterys to GM for example for their electric/hybred cars. Hybred cars are the future for automobiles.

Tell us in the comments section below or on the A123 Systems CAPS page whether you think this will be the spark for its growth, and add it to your watchlist to see if GM ultimately shorts out.

Going hog wild
Doubts about the veracity of the financial operations of Chinese hog farmer Zhongpin have weighed heavily on its stock, which trades 68% below its 52-week high. Earlier this summer I expressed concern that it was able to be so much more profitable than its peers because it used an "industrial cluster approach" to its farm practices, and others have suggested it is overstating the number of hogs it buys as well as its distribution channel. Some Fools have wondered whether, on a more practical level, its interests just aren't aligned with shareholders'.

With no company-specific news accounting for Zhongpin's rise yesterday, I find it all too likely the gains will be fleeting.

CAPS members are hopeful, though, with 96% of those rating Zhongpin thinking it will outperform the broad market averages. Let us know on the Zhongpin CAPS page if you believe the hog farm can rise above the sty of Chinese fraud, then add the stock to the Fool's free portfolio tracker to keep track of its progress.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorRich Dupreyholds no position in any company mentioned.Click hereto see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Dendreon.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Illumina, General Motors, and Pacific Biosciences of California.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended writing puts in Zhongpin. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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