The S&P/ASX 200 (INDEXASX: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) is in a strange place. I’ve been writing weekly 52-week highs and lows articles (one of each) for almost three years, and I’ve never seen so many new highs and so few new lows.

What does it mean? As to the absence of lows, I don’t know. I suspect that it’s because earnings are mediocre at a number of businesses and they’re not really going anywhere, but nor have they underperformed sufficiently to warrant a downgrade. The kind of companies showing up in 52-week highs however, shows very clearly what investors are looking for – success, and earnings growth.

Nowhere is it on more display than in three of this week’s new highs:

CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) – last traded at $113.91, up 27% in the past 12 months

CSL continues to hit new highs as investors bank on its international diversification and considerable research & development (R&D) activity to drive profits higher. Although shares trade on approximately 30 times full year earnings, twice the ASX average, this is arguably justifiable for a company like CSL which has a strong track record of reinvesting in itself to create value. Low dividend payments leave plenty of money left over for R&D and share buybacks, and management has been prudent in its fiscal decisions.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see CSL head higher over the next 12 months.

Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH) – last traded at $118.09, up 49% in the past 12 months

Like CSL, Cochlear is another favourite of investors who love the company’s global diversification and market-leading products, although to my eye Cochlear appears to offer less value than CSL right now. While the market currently loves the stock, hiccups like lawsuits and product recalls have smashed the share price in the past, and I think investors have a decent chance at picking up Cochlear at more attractive prices if they’re patient.

Even if they’re not, the company has a long growth runway ahead of it, with less than 2% penetration of its target market.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp Ltd (ASX:FPH) – last traded at $9.38, up 59% in the past 12 months

Fisher & Paykel is another high-quality healthcare business, although at today’s prices it looks to be trading above what a prudent investor (one seeking a margin of safety) would ideally pay for the shares. Shares have been rising in anticipation of the company’s full year report, which should be out next week. Management has previously guided for full-year profits of around NZ$135 million to NZ$140 million, which means the A$5 billion business is trading at over 40 times its full year earnings.

The company’s outlook is good and macro demand for respiratory devices also appears strong, although I don’t believe shares will rise significantly further in the near future.

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Motley Fool contributor Sean O'Neill has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.