5. Global Axcess (GAXC), an owner of 4,500 ATMs and DVD kiosks in the U.S., returned 514% over the past year. Global Axcess hasn't yet "broken the buck" and is currently trading over-the-counter at around 89 cents a share, with a market value of $19 million. During the past three years, Global Axcess has increased profit 31% annually, on average. Considering that growth rate, the stock appears undervalued at a price-to-earnings ratio of 11.
4. Culp (CFI - Get Report), a maker of mattress and upholstery fabrics, ascended 563% during the past year. Culp endured a difficult fiscal 2009, posting losses in its second and third quarters, but then mounted a successful turnaround. It swung to a fiscal second-quarter profit of $2.9 million, or 22 cents a share, from a loss of $41 million, or $3.23, a year earlier. The company's operating margin widened from 3.7% to 7.6%.
3. High-tech-equipment maker Veeco Instruments (VECO - Get Report) climbed 578% in the past 12 months. Veeco designs equipment used by the data storage, semiconductor and wireless industries. It suffered losses in the first half of 2009, but resumed profitability in the third and fourth quarters. The company possesses a liquid balance sheet, with $284 million of cash and $101 million of debt.
2. Biotech darling Dendreon (DNDN) soared 726% during the past year as investors placed bets on prostate cancer drug Provenge. Dendreon is consistently unprofitable, but Provenge is in the final stage of Food and Drug Administration approval, with a notification deadline of May 1. If the drug meets criteria, Dendreon plans to commercialize independently in the U.S. It's considering overseas partnerships.