3 Stocks Near 52-Week Highs Worth Selling


Having run this series for more than a year now, I can't say I've seen more than 1,200 stocks within 5% of a new 52-week high -- until this week, that is. For optimists, these rallies may seem like a dream come true. For skeptics like me, they're opportunities to see whether these companies have earned their current valuations.

Keep in mind that some companies deserve their current valuations. Adams Resources & Energy (ASE: AE) , for instance, crushed Wall Street's EPS estimates last week by 122% by reporting a doubling in year-over-year quarterly income to $1.13. The small-cap crude oil marketing company cited stronger margins and increased demand for the rapid rise in its profits.

Still, other companies might deserve a kick in the pants. Here's a look at three companies that could be worth selling.

A cloudy forecast
I don't have a vendetta against cloud-based software providers, but you're going to begin to think I do. Today I want to take a closer look at CornerstoneOnDemand (NAS: CSOD) and point out why I'm skeptical of the stock at these levels.

The growth is definitely there. In 2011, Cornerstone announced that gross revenue rose 62% while it increased its client base by 67%. These are all great figures and they show that Cornerstone is growing rapidly, but it once again was wiped out by continued losses. I'm having a hard time grasping how a company with a 73% gross margin can continue to lose money.

I understand it's scaling its operations, but I don't see how that commands a valuation of 17 times book value. In addition, the recent buyout of Cornerstone's peers Taleo (NAS: TLEO) by Oracle, and SuccessFactors by SAP, doesn't eliminate the competition, as CEO Adam Miller suggested in the company's fourth-quarter earnings release. Until I see tangible profits, I'll remain negative on much of the cloud space.

Run -- don't walk -- from this stock
I guess you could say I might have a vendetta against personal fitness stocks which are about as cyclical as they come. They are negatively affected by weak economies and they deal with consumers that have very little brand loyalty. This week I'm suggesting it could be time to dump Life Time Fitness (NYS: LTM) .

The operator of fitness, recreation, and spa centers throughout the U.S. reported results in the fourth quarter that highlighted it crossing $1 billion in revenue, but slightly missing analysts' EPS forecasts for fiscal 2012. Also, just weeks after guiding toward continued membership growth, Life Time's CFO was quoted as saying that he doesn't expect new membership figures "going through the roof." To me this seems like a telltale warning to expect growth to wane in the coming quarters. We've seen far too many failures than success stories recently, and I'd just assume avoid the sector altogether.

Another value-destroying ETF
As seems to occur about once a month now, I ran across yet another triple-levered destructor of investor wealth, the Direxion Daily Retail Bull 3X (ASE: RETL) . If I hadn't said it a dozen times before, or you're new to this series, allow me to repeat that the daily rebalancing of triple-levered funds like this will eat your investment up bit by bit over time. Unless you perfectly time your trade, buying into triple-levered ETFs is like playing with fire.

Let's keep in mind that an extraordinarily cold winter in 2010-2011 made it difficult for many consumers to get to the mall. This year's mild winter is making for some very robust same-store sales comparisons over the year-ago period that just aren't accurate representations of retail health. I'd suggest not getting sucked into this ETF's recent outperformance.

Foolish roundup
Does this sound like a broken record, or what: a cloud play, a fitness stock, and a triple-levered ETF? In all cases, the underlying expectations don't match the fundamentals. No matter how repetitive it may sound, it's a formula that works more often than not. I'm so confident in my three calls that I plan to make a CAPScall of underperform on each one. The question now is: Would you do the same?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and consider using the following links to add these three stocks to your free and personalized Watchlist so you can keep track of the latest news on each company. And to avoid investing in stocks like these, consider getting a copy of our special report, "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." In it, our chief investment officer details a play he dubbed the "Costco of Latin America." Best of all, this report is free for a limited time, so don't miss out!

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He last stepped into a gym 12 years ago. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.The Motley Fool owns shares of Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that never needs to be sold short.

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