3 Stocks at 52-Week Highs Still Worth Buying

By George Budwell, Chuck Saletta, and Cory Renauer Markets Fool.com

With the broader markets hovering around their all-time highs at the moment,the idea of buying individual stocks that are at or close to their 52-week highs may not sound all that appealing. Stocks with the richest valuations, after all, are likely to be the hardest hit in the event of a marketwide downturn.

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Nonetheless, our contributors think that Clovis Oncology (NASDAQ: CLVS),Corbus Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: CRBP), andCitigroup (NYSE: C) are all still worth buying right now --despite their relatively pricey valuations. Here's why.

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This emerging cancer company is on a roll

George Budwell(Clovis Oncology):As the result of the FDA approval of Clovis'Rubraca as atreatment for advanced BRCA-mutant ovarian cancer last December, Clovis' stock is now bumping up against its 52-week highs and is garnering a ginormous forward-looking price-to-2018-sales ratio of 13.9. Suffice to say, investors are clearly excited about the prospects of this somewhat novel drug that acts to prevent cancer cells from repairing DNA damage associated with chemotherapy.

Although Clovis' present valuation is predicated on Rubraca,a PARP inhibitor, finding a profitable niche in the crowded ovarian cancer space and hitting the mark as amaintenance therapy later this year, there are some good reasons to think this stock may still be a compelling long-term buy.

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The real heart of the issue, though, is thatRubraca is presently in several clinical studies for high-value indications such as prostate and triple negative breast cancer that could vastly expand its commercial opportunity going forward. In fact, some industry experts think that Rubraca may even reach blockbuster statusif it's indeed able to grab one or more additional indications.

In all, Clovis may have a bona fide franchise-level cancer drug on its hands, which is a highly sought after commodity in the pharmaceutical space. And if so, the market should continue to bid this stock up, especially since the possibility of a buyout is always in play when it comes to companies with a newly approved cancer medicine.

Marijuana moonshot

Cory Renauer(Corbus Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc):Shares of this biotech have soared about 443% over the past 52 weeks. Despite the run-up, long-term investors starting a position today could ride this rocket all the way to the moon.

The company is developing a synthetic cannabinoid called Resunab that mimics marijuana's anti-inflammatory properties without its intoxicating effects. Although the candidate might benefit people with a variety of autoimmune disorders, Corbus Pharmaceuticals has wisely focused its efforts on a condition that lacks safe and effective treatment options. Systemic sclerosis causes widespread, often fatal organ damage to about 90,000 patients worldwide. Although steroids and other means of immune system suppression can delay the effects, years of use can lead to equally dangerous side effects.

Clinical trial data thus far suggests Resunab reduces the chronic inflammation without compromising the immune system. It's important to note that it barely crossed the hurdle generally accepted as statistically significant, which gives me some pause. However, if the results of a larger study, slated for later this year, are at least as good as previous observations, a subsequent application for FDA approval should be a slam dunk.

If the agency gives Resunab a green light, it would become the first treatment specifically approved for systemic sclerosis. This would send Corbus stock soaring, and studies to expand into three more indications could send it higher still.

With no products to selland just one new drug candidate in development, negative data later this year could lead to heavy losses. If you're willing to accept that risk, though, this rollercoaster ride is worth the price of admission.

A slowpoke to recover from the financial crisis

Chuck Saletta (Citigroup): Financial titan Citigroup is trading near its 52-week high, but it still looks like it's worth buying. Citigroup was a laggard recovering from last decade's financial crisis, only receiving permission to begin restoring its dividend in 2015. Having taken its time to recover its fundamentals, its share price also took its time bouncing back,and that's part of what makes it worth considering despite the fact that its shares are trading near their recent highs.

Citigroup looks fairly valued based on a number of financial metrics. For one, it's trading at around 83% of its book value, while other banks have recovered to above their book values. While book value has little meaning unless a business is at risk of liquidation, it's still a reasonable estimate of what it would cost to recreate the company from scratch. That makes it a decent proxy of a minimum fair value of a business that's profitable and expected to remain so.

For another, Citigroup is trading at less than eleven times its expected forward earnings. When combined with an estimated earnings growth rate of around seven percent over the next five or so years, it looks reasonably priced on that measure as well.

Whether you're looking at it from a balance sheet perspective or from an earnings perspective, Citigroup looks reasonably valued. That makes it a solid company to consider buying despite its trading near its 52-week high.

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Chuck Saletta has no position in any stocks mentioned. Cory Renauer has no position in any stocks mentioned. George Budwell has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.