3 Stocks Near 52-Week Highs Worth Selling

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is on a nine-day winning streak as of this writing and it appears as if the market can do no wrong. For skeptics like me, that's an opportunity to see whether companies have earned their current valuations.

Keep in mind that some companies deserve their current valuations. Hard-disk drive maker Western Digital, for example, trades at a bare-bones valuation because investors are concerned about increased commoditization and weaker PC sales weighing on earnings. However, with Western Digital able to double-dip in cloud computing, supplying the storage for both the computers and the data centers, it still has plenty of growth yet to come.

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


What's soon to be black and blue all over?
Sometimes even having one of the most prestigious names in publishing isn't enough to save your stock from the dreaded red thumb. That's the case of Washington Post , which is currently the most-shorted stock within the S&P 500 based on days to cover according to Forbes.

The problem with Washington Post is that I can't stomach many of their business segments. Newspapers have slowly been bleeding customers for years with most content moving to a digital platform. This isn't to say that Washington Post is twiddling its thumbs while this happens as it's set up digital media platforms as well - but the trend has been decisively away from paying for newspaper content. As evidence, its newspaper publishing division's revenue declined 7% in 2012 to $581.7 million.

Even worse is its educational segment, headed by Kaplan University. Kaplan is among the many online for-profit universities that have come under increasing regulatory scrutiny for the way they market themselves to potential students, divvy out student loans, and portray promises of employment after graduation. Revenue in this segment fell a whopping 9% in 2012 to $2.2 billion and accounts for about 55% of Washington Post's total revenue.

Tack up these two dying segments and you'll get about 70% of Washington Post's revenue. Even if its cable television and television broadcasting segment grow by double digits, there's really no way this should be valued at close to 20 times forward earnings.

Match the estimate, I dare you!
Anything related to housing is hot, hot, hot, right now! That goes the same for listing services such as Move which operates Realtor.com and allows online users to browse listings and peruse moving companies. But the one big beef I have with Move that I just can't let slip by: It can't meet Wall Street's earnings estimates to save its life.

Quarter + Year

Consensus EPS

Reported EPS

Surprise

Q1 2010

$0.05

$0.08

$0.03

Q2 2010

$0.06

$0.04

($0.02)

Q3 2010

$0.07

$0.04

($0.03)

Q4 2010

$0.07

$0.04

($0.03)

Q1 2011

$0.06

$0.00

($0.06)

Q2 2011

$0.04

$0.08

$0.04

Q3 2011

$0.05

$0.04

($0.01)

Q4 2011

$0.09

$0.12

$0.03

Q1 2012

$0.05

$0.00

($0.05)

Q2 2012

$0.08

$0.04

($0.04)

Q3 2012

$0.07

$0.04

($0.03)

Q4 2012

$0.07

$0.04

($0.03)

Source: E*Trade.

Move has missed analysts estimates -- in most cases by a mile -- in nine of the past 12 quarters and shareholders are sending this to a new high?! Some may point to its reasonably low forward P/E of 16, but to that I counter, "What happens when Move misses in the next three of four quarters and suddenly you're staring at a forward P/E of 30 or higher?" A 10-year glance at Move's financial results shows a company that's range bound, with the company expecting to generate roughly $5 million more in revenue at the mid-point than it made in 2003. With unimpressive cash flow and a long history of disappointment, I'm going to suggest you "Move" on.

The renewable energy that just doesn't make sense
I admit to not being a huge fan of alternative energies given the amount of infrastructure that I feel needs to be put in place to make them even remotely effective is still decades off. However, even I can see long-term use in alternative energies like wind and solar power. That was one of the reasons that my fellow Fools and I unanimously chose SunPower to outperform as it offers to most efficient panels on the market and its residential business is picking up rapidly. Shares have more than doubled since that call. But, there's another form of alternative energy available that makes little to no sense to me: ethanol.

Ethanol is a far and away my least favorite alternative energy. It provides less energy than standard gasoline and is wholly reliant on weather patterns and corn prices for ethanol companies' underlying profitability. That's why I'm suggesting it's time to run away from Green Plains Renewable Energy . Last year's drought nearly crushed Green Plains, and corn prices are still much higher than they were at this time last year, which will result in lower margins for all ethanol producers. Not to mention that Green Plains has missed Wall Street's estimates (badly) in four of the past five quarters. I will pass on ethanol producers nearly every time.

Foolish roundup
This week's theme is "Can it actually produce what analysts expect?" In all three cases, I'd say no, with Kaplan weighing down Washington Post, inconsistent ad revenue weighing down Move, and high corn prices and unpredictable weather patterns stifling Green Plains.

I'm so confident in my three calls that I plan to make a CAPScall of underperform on each one. The question is: Would you do the same?

One company far from the sell column
The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for the next year. Find out which stock it is in the brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

The article 3 Stocks Near 52-Week Highs Worth Selling originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. 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 Western Digital.. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.

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