BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- Major stock indices gained nearly 3% last week, and investors are left wondering if the market can hand over further gains as a new week begins. Sources point to yes, because last week's move higher was largely technicals-based. That means that it was a gain that was driven by the market's price action, not one that was predicated on a shift in economic fundamentals.

This week, however, with a slew of new economic data set to come out -- and mushy market support at 1220 -- stocks have a chance at leveraging their latest move higher for another year-end rally. That timing isn't insignificant either. With the end of the year fast approaching and 2010 highs within investors' sights, the bulls will be aching to end on a high note.

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But regardless of what happens with stocks this week, we've got a game plan.

Once again, we'll turn to our weekly Rocket Stocks list to outperform the market this week. For the uninitiated, Rocket Stocks are our weekly list of companies with short-term gain catalysts and longer-term growth potential. In the last 81 weeks, Rocket Stocks have outperformed the S&P 500 by 78.31%.

Here's a look at this week's potential plays.

It's about time that we turned to Yum! Brands ( YUM) for some upside potential. Yum! was a frequent component of our weekly Rocket Stocks list in 2009, and this year we're counting on repeat successes ahead of the firm's investor and analyst conference on Wednesday.

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Yum! is a fast food giant, home to such brands as Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut. Its quick-service chains also enjoy some of the best emerging market penetration in the industry, making the firm an attractive choice for growth-hungry investors right now.

Part of that success comes from prescient positioning several years ago. Yum! was among the first American restaurant firms to embrace China; today, those Chinese restaurants see industry-leading average annual unit sales of $1.2 million and constantly improving margins. Initially, Yum's strategy had been relegated to deploying its existing brand portfolio abroad. Today, however, the firm also owns several localized brands that help Yum drill down its offerings to fit demands in the markets it serves.

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From a financial perspective, Yum is an attractive stock. The company sports manageable debt numbers and strong, steady cash flows and enviable net margins. For those reasons, the firm's dividend payout (currently 25 cents per share quarterly) has attracted income investors as well as growth-seekers. While a 48% rally in the last year hasn't made this stock a value play any more, there's still considerable upside potential in Yum! Brands right now.

Costco Wholesale ( COST) has long been the leader in the club store business model. With average store sales of $135 million per club in 2009, the firm's locations generate nearly twice the revenues per square-foot that Wal-Mart's (WMT) Sam's Club does.

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Much of that success comes from the products that Costco focuses on. The store chain moves a significantly higher volume of big-ticket items, which are more accretive to top-line numbers than smaller items are, and often benefit from higher margins for the store as well.

Costco's key to growth right now is increased spending among U.S. consumers. While the recession has proven difficult for the retailer, the cost efficiencies of buying in bulk and recurring membership fees have at least insulated the firm from seeing its sales freeze. As consumers continue to lose their aversion to parting with cash, Costco should ultimately be a major beneficiary.

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Though crucial, U.S. consumers aren't the only group Costco is betting on for growth. The company is also ramping up its international presence, particularly in Asia and Australia, where economic headwinds aren't as strong, and the club store model intrigues consumers. We're betting on Costco ahead of the company's Dec. 9 earnings call.

As one of the biggest international insurers, Minnesota-based Travelers ( TRV) saw its share of downside risk in 2008. But this year, shareholders are being rewarded for their patience thanks to double-digit year-to-date capital gains and a respectable dividend payout.

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Travelers was one of the few high-market-exposure financial industry stocks to ultimately record a profit for 2008, a testament to the firm's risk-management abilities. Like other insurers, Travelers is responsible for investing the substantial number of assets it's required to maintain in order to pay out potential claims. While competitors sought to earn outsized profits by making riskier bets, Travelers was able to avoid the temptation of high returns and focus on its core insurance business.

While that may have made the stock less attractive during the bull push of 2005 and 2006, investors clearly recognize the importance of that conservatism in 2010.

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This hefty $25 billion firm may not be a high-growth stock right now, but its sheer scale makes it an attractive play - particularly as a recession wanes and the company's clients have more cars, businesses, and homes to insure.

For more stocks that made this week's cut, including H&R Block ( HRB) and New Gold ( NGD), check out the Rocket Stocks portfolio at Stockpickr.

-- 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

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