Stock Quotes in this Article: F, HD, INFA

The market looks prepared to take a breather on Monday following a rally last week that closed the S&P 500 3.6% higher in the last five trading days -- one of the largest single-week gains in recent memory.

Lower price action is actually a welcome phenomenon for long-term investors; with equity markets already nearing overbought territory ahead of last week’s rally, a period of sideways consolidation is the market’s only chance for a sustained move higher.

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Regardless of what the broad market does, some stocks will continue to push higher on the heels of strong fundamental data and bullish analyst expectations. This week, we’ll attempt to take advantage of that market fragmentation with a fresh set of Rocket Stock plays.

For the uninitiated, Rocket Stocks are our weekly list of companies with short-term gain catalysts and longer-term growth potential. In the last 78 weeks, Rocket Stocks have outperformed the S&P 500 by 76.15%.

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Here’s a look at this week’s list.

This year has seen strong performance in shares of Home Depot (HD), the $53 billion home improvement retailer that’s rallied more than 10% since the first trading day of 2010.

Much of that price appreciation has been thanks to a sales rebound fueled by a rising wave of do-it-yourself consumers, whose purchases have turned the tide for the company this year. Since 2008, Home Depot’s revenues had been languishing, but they appear to have turned the corner at this point.

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The last few years have been a chance to regroup for Home Depot following a period of quick expansion that left the company with drags on its income statement and kinks in its distribution efficiency. The company countered by paring down divisions most affected by economic headwinds and completely restructuring its distribution chain, two moves that have helped bring the company onto Wall Street’s good side.

In the past several quarters, this home improvement giant has managed to widen its margins and increase its dividend payouts, two key metrics that investors have been watching with baited breath. Home Depot announces third-quarter earnings next week, and when it does, expect investors to be ready to hit the “buy” button. We’re betting on shares ahead of that earnings call.

>>Who Owns Home Depot?: Renaissance Technologies

Ford (F) has been no stranger to our Rocket Stocks list in the past. After all, Detroit’s last remaining publicly traded automaker has made a legendary turnaround in recent years, improving build quality, cost effectiveness, and consumer interest in its cars. Ford has truly done the remarkable by becoming profitable again -- and now, the company is planning on reducing its debt to become net cash positive by the end of next year.

In recent years, Ford has proven that American automakers can compete with Japanese and European rivals on both the quality of their automobiles and their internal profitability. The company’s Fiesta has widely been considered one of the most exciting compact offerings in years, new Focus and Fiesta offerings have been lauded by automotive critics for their build quality and fuel efficiency, and the new 2011 Mustang marks a return to performance that’s caught the eye of more than a few enthusiasts of late.

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As one of the last automakers with an integrated credit division, Ford has a significant advantage over competitors who shed their finance arms during the heat of the credit crunch. A finance arm is a hugely useful tool for an automaker, but as a freestanding entity that’s required to be profitable, peers’ credit companies don’t offer the flexibility needed to make them accretive to the parent company’s sales.

That said, Ford will need to watch out for the creditworthiness of prospective buyers going forward as lending restrictions loosen up.

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Enterprise data firm Informatica (INFA) has been making significant strides of its own. The company, which makes enterprise data integration software, has enjoyed a 58% run-up in its share prices year-to-date thanks to substantial sales increases as IT spending crept back up industry-wide. Put simply, Informatica’s software is designed to help companies put together data from different systems for analysis and reporting purposes.

While its core clients -- namely financial services firms and manufacturers -- have taken hits that forced cutbacks in spending, Informatica’s services aren’t discretionary, and sales have held up relatively well. The company is trying to take advantage of the need for its products by expanding its offerings to encompass even more applications. That’s a good move because of the stiff competition Informatica faces from long-standing tech giants.

>>Who Owns Informatica?: Columbia Wanger Asset Management

The company will need to expand its installed base if it wants to continue to be the No. 1 data integration software vendor. With solid third-quarter earnings behind it, we’re betting on a continued rally period of Informatica’s shares in November.

For more stocks that made this week's cut, including Fossil (FOSL) and CSX Corporation (CSX), check out the Rocket Stocks portfolio at Stockpickr.


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At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.

Jonas Elmerraji, based out of Baltimore, is the editor and portfolio manager of the Rhino Stock Report, a free investment advisory that returned 15% in 2008. He is a contributor to numerous financial outlets, including Forbes and Investopedia, and has been featured in Investor's Business Daily, in Consumer's Digest and on