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BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- The new year is just a few trading sessions away, which means that investors will be looking closely at how their stocks performed for the calendar year of 2010.

All told, our weekly list of Rocket Stocks smashed expectations, besting the broad market and most mutual funds with average annualized gains of 61.7% since we started tracking in July 2009. That means our overall performance is currently approaching 110%.

But as most investors know, gains and losses rarely end with the ringing in of another year. So with that, let's take a look at five new Rocket Stocks plays that could help catapult us into positive territory

as we start 2011

.

For the uninitiated, Rocket Stocks are our weekly list of companies with short-term gain catalysts and longer-term growth potential. This week, we'll continue our trend of looking at stocks with rising analyst expectations.

Related Article:

5 Highflying Stocks to Avoid

On Wall Street, expectations can mean everything -- and stocks with rising expectations often benefit from increased buying pressures from institutions and retail investors alike. To find them, I run a quantitative screen that seeks out stocks with a combination of analyst upgrades and positive earnings surprises.

Here's a look at

this week's potential plays

.

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Caterpillar Inc. Report

is the clear heavy-hitter of the heavy equipment business, with more than 200 dealer locations, the industry's leading market share and a financing arm that's continued to perform throughout the recession. Now, with 2011 on the horizon and recovery going full bore, this stock could be looking for a repeat performance of the 66% gains shareholders saw in the last year.

It's not surprising that many investors fled Caterpillar in the wake of the credit crunch. With construction projects stalling, added balance sheet risks from Caterpillar's financing business and a then-lofty valuation, eschewing shares in favor of "safe assets" seemed like a smart decision at the time. But having faith in CAT has paid off for investors who held out. Shares currently trade for an 11% premium to 2008 highs, and CAT has

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continued to pay its quarterly dividend

without fail while increasing it by 76% since 2006.

The global rebound in heavy construction has done a good job of filling Caterpillar's coffers in the last year, as has a slimmed-down operating profile at the hands of a less-leveraged

balance sheet

. Expect international markets to be a key source of top-line growth in the New Year. Meanwhile, we'll bet on this stock to end 2010 as analyst sentiment continues to be strong.

Current big bets on Caterpillar have been made by the

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

-- as of its latest filing, Caterpillar made up 5.2% of its total portfolio -- as well as

Ken Fisher

and

Tom Gayner

. Jim Cramer recently recommended Caterpillar as a

commodity stock to consider

, and it was one of the

top-performing Dow dividend stocks

of the year.

Heavy construction isn't the only industry that took its knocks in 2008. As discretionary spending dropped off a cliff, so too did revenues for apparel makers like

VF Corp.

(VFC) - Get V.F. Corporation Report

, a $9.6 billion clothing company that owns household name brands such as The North Face, Vans, Lee and Wrangler. Now the company's growth is proving attractive for investors who want to added portfolio exposure to

consumer products

.

As one of the biggest apparel brands in the world, VFC benefits from a mature distribution chain and a diverse product mix that's not beholden to spending with any single demographic. Likewise, by working to develop the equity of its brand portfolio through advertising, the company maintains pricing control over major customers such as

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report

and

Target

(TGT) - Get Target Corporation Report

, which are able to take harder lines in negotiating with apparel companies whose brands suffer from diminished consumer awareness.

Although competition continues to be fierce in the domestic apparel market, VFC's market position is strong enough that management can turn added attention to international sales, which currently only contribute around a third of revenues. While margins may be aversely affected overseas, it's unlikely that VFC will meet its growth targets without taking a hit on profitability.

Overall, this strong looks like a strong contender for growth in the coming year -- and investors should see that as sentiment remains strong this week.

Unemployment has been a significant theme for the broad economy in the last few years, but it's been an even bigger one for

Monster Worldwide

(MWW)

, the company that owns some of the most popular online job recruitment websites in the world. The recent rebound in hiring hasn't gone unnoticed in shares of Monster, and the company's share price has rallied more than 40% year-to-date.

Monster makes its money when companies look for potential job candidates, which means that the firm enjoys strong profits during periods of increased hiring and poor performance when companies are laying off employees. That factor means that Monster is more susceptible to recessionary headwinds than most others.

Another big challenge on Monster's plate is the relatively low barriers to entry for online job sites. In the last few years, scores of competitors have popped up as standalone offerings and tertiary job boards on other major web properties.

But in the short term, neither of those challenges should matter much.

Hiring has been on the upswing

for a while now, as companies re-adjust for the increased workloads that the last year has brought. In the same vein, Monster's massive advertising campaigns have built up consumer awareness in the past, a major factor in driving job seekers to its site. Because Web companies such as Monster derive their valuations from the number of eyes hitting their pages, that consumer awareness coupled with a convalescing job market should mean more hits and more revenues right now.

In the most recent reporting period,

Arnie Schneider at Capital Management

increased his position in Monster Worldwide by 450%, while

Blum Capital Partners

initiated a position in the stock.

For more stocks that made this week's cut, including

PG&E

(PGC) - Get Peapack-Gladstone Financial Corporation Report

and

International Flavors & Fragrances

(IFF) - Get International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. Report

, check out

the Rocket Stocks portfolio

at Stockpickr.

RELATED LINKS:

>>5 Top Stocks From 2011 Forecasts

>>4 Stocks Poised for Breakouts

>>10 Micro-Cap Value Stocks

-- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.

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

Jonas Elmerraji 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 MSNBC.com.