"We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful." -- Warren Buffett

Out of the quadrillions of quotations quarried from that most loquacious of quotationists, this one holds a special place in the hearts of Foolish investors. Are you looking to "buy low" so as to later "sell high?" If so, your best chance of getting that initial, low entry price comes when panicked sellers are unloading their shares at whatever price is on offer.

In today's column, we search the ranks of Wall Street's motivated sellers, and note which stocks they're most frantic to unload. Therein, methinks, lies the makings of a contrarian's Christmas list (to self). But don't just take my word for it. Before you decide to go in through Wall Street's out door, check your thinking against the collective intelligence of Motley Fool CAPS investors.

Today's contenders include:

30-Day Price Decline

Currently Fetching

CAPS Rating





Coldwater Creek (NASDAQ:CWTR)








Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ:SWHC)




Ballard Power (NASDAQ:BLDP)








General Motors (NYSE:GM)




Companies are selected from the "Institutional Ownership Down Last Month" list published on MSN Money on the Saturday following close of trading last week. Price decline and current pricing also provided by MSN Money on the same date. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

The problem with pessimism
The problem with going against the grain on Wall Street is that when professional traders get pessimistic, their grim outlook can become a self-fulfilling prophecy -- at least in the short term. The more desperate institutions become to abandon a stock, the lower the price they'll accept to get rid of it. And as their "ask" prices drop, the "bid" prices of buyers will fall in tandem, creating the very price decline that they feared in the first place.

Until the selling stops.

In through the out door
When it will stop is anybody's guess. But until it does, savvy investors have a chance to "get greedy," and snap up some bargains from these fearful sellers (if bargains they truly be). Which of the above seven stocks fits the bill? In today's list, we see four instances in which Main Street agrees with Wall Street, two more where our lay analysts say Wall Street's worrying too much, and one where CAPS says the professionals are just flat out wrong.

That one company is online broker optionsXpress (incidentally, a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation), which Fools rate an outperformer by a 100-to-1 margin. Here's why:

  • Steve819 , who sits in the rarefied top 0.1% of CAPS investors, has this to say about optionsXpress: "Expensive yes, but I've watched this one for over a year with increasing admiration for management and the company. Every single options trader I've talked to has an account and raves about the broker. Great moat, mouth-watering financials."
  • Echoes all-star CAPS player VictorianJester: "Looking beyond decent financials, this company provides an answer to a substantially large and growing need, and doesn't have much competition right now. I love that it can make money during all types of economic directions, and that it provides a useful and profitable service to foreign traders."

There you have it, folks -- the wisdom of two Fools out of the 300 who have rated this stock. Do you agree with them? Or are you, like the three CAPS players who have rated optionsXpress an underperformer (but posted no comments as to why) quietly fuming over the insanity of buying this stock? Either way, come on over to CAPS and tell us what you think.

Motley Fool CAPS: It's fun, it's free, and it just might make you famous.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked 454 out of more than 17,000 raters. The Fool has a disclosure policy.