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Gauging a company’s profitability can be difficult because there are so many measures to choose from. One idea is to compare the profitability margins of a company to its industry peers – companies with higher margins are taking a greater percentage of sales as profits, and they have greater control of their cost structure.

We ran a screen on stocks recently hitting new 52-week highs for those with high profitability, beating their industry peers on gross, operating, and pretax margins.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the top six stocks mentioned below. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.‬

We also created a price-weighted index of the stocks mentioned below, and monitored the performance of the list relative to the S&P 500 index over the last month. To access a complete analysis of this list's recent performance, click here.

Do you think these stocks will keep moving higher? Use this list as a starting-off point for your own analysis.

List sorted by difference between gross margin and industry.

1. HCP, Inc. (HCP): An independent hybrid real estate investment trust. Market cap of $16.15B. TTM gross margin at 57.94% vs. industry gross margin at 38.94%. TTM operating margin at 57.94% vs. industry operating margin at 38.14%. TTM pretax margin at 30.68% vs. industry pretax margin at 15.54%. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 8.24% (equivalent to 7.09 days of average volume). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 8.74% over the last week.

2. Fastenal Co. (FAST): Engaged as a wholesaler and retailer of industrial and construction supplies. Market cap of $11.32B. TTM gross margin at 53.68% vs. industry gross margin at 36.96%. TTM operating margin at 20.47% vs. industry operating margin at 13.02%. TTM pretax margin at 20.49% vs. industry pretax margin at 12.82%. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 11.21% (equivalent to 9.77 days of average volume). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 12.9% over the last week.

3. Air Methods Corp. (AIRM): Provides air medical emergency transport services and systems in the United States. Market cap of $1.07B. TTM gross margin at 30.01% vs. industry gross margin at 21.03%. TTM operating margin at 12.83% vs. industry operating margin at 8.45%. TTM pretax margin at 12.99% vs. industry pretax margin at 6.89%. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 13.36% (equivalent to 15.34 days of average volume). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 7.5% over the last week.

4. Cleco Corporation (CNL): Engages in the generation, transmission, distribution, and sale of electricity in Louisiana. Market cap of $2.28B. TTM gross margin at 36.56% vs. industry gross margin at 26.75%. TTM operating margin at 26.16% vs. industry operating margin at 18.54%. TTM pretax margin at 23.38% vs. industry pretax margin at 14.12%. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 6.3% (equivalent to 5.32 days of average volume). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 6% over the last week.

5. CorVel Corporation (CRVL): Provides medical cost containment and managed care services to manage the medical costs of workers' compensation and other healthcare benefits primarily for coverage under group health and auto insurance policies. Market cap of $623.24M. TTM gross margin at 28.38% vs. industry gross margin at 21.03%. TTM operating margin at 12.81% vs. industry operating margin at 8.45%. TTM pretax margin at 9.79% vs. industry pretax margin at 6.89%. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 5.6% (equivalent to 10.55 days of average volume). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 11.63% over the last week.

6. O'Reilly Automotive Inc. (ORLY): Engages in the retail of automotive aftermarket parts, tools, supplies, equipment, and accessories in the United States. Market cap of $10.35B. TTM gross margin at 51.56% vs. industry gross margin at 38.34%. TTM operating margin at 14.44% vs. industry operating margin at 10.13%. TTM pretax margin at 13.80% vs. industry pretax margin at 9.38%. The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 8.93% over the last week.

7. LKQ Corp. (LKQX): Provides replacement parts, components, and parts needed to repair vehicles, primarily cars and trucks in the United States and Canada. Market cap of $4.38B. TTM gross margin at 43.10% vs. industry gross margin at 32.56%. TTM operating margin at 11.56% vs. industry operating margin at 7.18%. TTM pretax margin at 10.48% vs. industry pretax margin at 6.67%. The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 6.9% over the last week.

8. FBL Financial Group Inc. (FFG): Sells individual life insurance and annuity products in the United States. Market cap of $1.08B. TTM gross margin at 21.01% vs. industry gross margin at 15.94%. TTM operating margin at 20.80% vs. industry operating margin at 12.33%. TTM pretax margin at 19.22% vs. industry pretax margin at 11.26%. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.43). The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 6.21% (equivalent to 11.74 days of average volume). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 14.35% over the last week.

9. Alexander's Inc. (ALX): Engages in leasing, managing, developing, and redeveloping properties in the greater New York City metropolitan area. Market cap of $2.27B. TTM gross margin at 50.92% vs. industry gross margin at 38.70%. TTM operating margin at 50.92% vs. industry operating margin at 37.89%. TTM pretax margin at 28.62% vs. industry pretax margin at 15.22%. The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 18.32% over the last week.

10. FEI Co. (FEIC): Supplies instruments for nanoscale imaging, analysis, and prototyping that enable research, development, and manufacturing in industrial, academic, and research institutional applications. Market cap of $1.43B. TTM gross margin at 47.06% vs. industry gross margin at 36.30%. TTM operating margin at 15.65% vs. industry operating margin at 9.37%. TTM pretax margin at 14.98% vs. industry pretax margin at 9.01%. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 7.53% (equivalent to 5.89 days of average volume). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 11.07% over the last week.

11. Nu Skin Enterprises Inc. (NUS): Develops and distributes anti-aging personal care products and nutritional supplements worldwide. Market cap of $3.09B. TTM gross margin at 84.38% vs. industry gross margin at 70.13%. TTM operating margin at 15.14% vs. industry operating margin at 12.24%. TTM pretax margin at 12.58% vs. industry pretax margin at 9.89%. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 9.15% (equivalent to 5.88 days of average volume). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 14.85% over the last week.

12. Buckeye Technologies Inc. (BKI): Distributes cellulose-based specialty products worldwide. Market cap of $1.21B. TTM gross margin at 28.13% vs. industry gross margin at 23.67%. TTM operating margin at 16.95% vs. industry operating margin at 8.48%. TTM pretax margin at 14.61% vs. industry pretax margin at 8.36%. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.47). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 12.22% over the last week.

13. Epoch Investment Partners, Inc. (EPHC): A publicly owned investment manager. Market cap of $498.91M. TTM gross margin at 56.30% vs. industry gross margin at 47.98%. TTM operating margin at 40.73% vs. industry operating margin at 35.34%. TTM pretax margin at 41.72% vs. industry pretax margin at 33.67%. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 5.48% (equivalent to 17.62 days of average volume). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 23.29% over the last week.

14. Intuitive Surgical, Inc. (ISRG): Designs, manufactures, and markets da Vinci surgical systems for various surgical procedures, including urologic, gynecologic, cardiothoracic, general, and head and neck surgeries. Market cap of $16.97B. TTM gross margin at 75.03% vs. industry gross margin at 65.20%. TTM operating margin at 39.34% vs. industry operating margin at 31.66%. TTM pretax margin at 40.24% vs. industry pretax margin at 26.64%. The stock has had a good month, gaining 12.17%.

15. DPL Inc. (DPL): Operates as a regional electric energy and utility company in the United States. Market cap of $3.47B. TTM gross margin at 30.01% vs. industry gross margin at 26.75%. TTM operating margin at 22.92% vs. industry operating margin at 18.54%. TTM pretax margin at 18.21% vs. industry pretax margin at 14.12%. The stock has gained 19.18% over the last year.

16. Philip Morris International, Inc. (PM): Engages in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products in markets outside of the United States. Market cap of $126.47B. TTM gross margin at 68.54% vs. industry gross margin at 61.42%. TTM operating margin at 43.42% vs. industry operating margin at 35.24%. TTM pretax margin at 40.41% vs. industry pretax margin at 31.65%. The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 9.04% over the last week.

17. CLARCOR Inc. (CLC): Provides filtration products, filtration systems and services, and consumer and industrial packaging products worldwide. Market cap of $2.47B. TTM gross margin at 36.56% vs. industry gross margin at 33.23%. TTM operating margin at 15.56% vs. industry operating margin at 12.90%. TTM pretax margin at 15.50% vs. industry pretax margin at 10.91%. The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 10.5% over the last week.

18. GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK): Engages in the discovery, development, manufacture, and marketing of pharmaceutical products, over the counter (OTC) medicines, and health-related consumer products worldwide. Market cap of $113.28B. TTM gross margin at 74.03% vs. industry gross margin at 71.82%. TTM operating margin at 22.47% vs. industry operating margin at 19.25%. TTM pretax margin at 19.39% vs. industry pretax margin at 14.31%. The stock has gained 18.32% over the last year.

19. MGE Energy Inc. (MGEE): Operates as a public utility holding company. Market cap of $1.06B. TTM gross margin at 27.20% vs. industry gross margin at 26.75%. TTM operating margin at 19.94% vs. industry operating margin at 18.54%. TTM pretax margin at 18.26% vs. industry pretax margin at 14.12%. The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 8.88% over the last week.

20. Ventas, Inc. (VTR): Engages in investment, management, financing, and leasing of properties in the healthcare industry. Market cap of $15.74B. TTM gross margin at 38.97% vs. industry gross margin at 38.64%. TTM operating margin at 38.97% vs. industry operating margin at 37.84%. TTM pretax margin at 15.45% vs. industry pretax margin at 14.61%. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 5.99% (equivalent to 6.14 days of average volume). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 5.83% over the last week.

*Profitability data sourced from Fidelity, all other data sourced from Finviz.

Source: 20 Stocks Reaching New Highs With Impressive Profitability