"Don't catch a falling knife," as the old saw commands. (Pardon my mixing a cutlery metaphor.) The idea of buying a former superstar stock at a discount price certainly has its attractions, but you've got to make sure you catch the haft -- not the blade. That's where Motley Fool CAPS comes in.

Today, we once again stand beneath Mr. Market's silverware drawer, measuring which knives have fallen the farthest. Then we'll call on CAPS to ask which of these stocks -- if any -- Foolish investors believe are ready for a rebound. Let's meet today's list of contenders, drawn from the latest "52-Week Lows" list at Nasdaq.com:

52-Week High

Recently Fetching

CAPS Rating (5 max):

Novartis (NYSE: NVS)




Pfizer (NYSE: PFE)




Bristol-Myers Squibb  (NYSE: BMY)




GlaxoSmithKline  (NYSE: GSK)




Merck (NYSE: MRK)




Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY)




AstraZeneca  (NYSE: AZN)




Companies are selected from the "NASDAQ 52-Week Low" list published on Nasdaq.com on the Saturday following close of trading last week. 52-week high and recent pricing provided by Yahoo! Finance as of the same date. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

Knives and knaves
If there's one good thing about a broad-based market sell-off, it's that you find a lot of terrific companies getting the ol' baby 'n' bathwater treatment. Tossed out on their rosy little bums as if they were bums of another sort. You know -- just know -- that some of these babies are gonna bounce right back once the suds subside.

Still, I have to admit I was surprised to see pretty much every big pharma name on the planet popping up when I ran this week's 52-week-lows search. Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Lilly -- they're all in there this week, they're all rated average or better by the CAPS community, and they're all on sale. So which of these firms shall we focus on this week? Out of 713 Fools polled, 685 suggest we take a look at ...

The bull case for Novartis
We'll lead off with a short introduction to Novartis from CAPS All-Star rd8o's pitch last summer:

Novartis is a Swiss based pharmaceutical and consumer health company. In addition to pharma, they have operations in animal health, Gerber baby products, and CIBA vision eyecare ... The pipeline looks solid and they've been reporting double digit revenue and earnings growth. Should be a pretty good defensive play in an uncertain market.

Fellow All-Star jbungard4 agrees, arguing last July that Novartis has

The best long-term outlook among drug industry competition. Their pipeline of new products looks promising. Looking ahead, expiring patents are few. Compared to their competitors, their margins should remain high for years to come. Strong sector long-term.

That's the big-picture, long-term view on Novartis. Let's end with a short-term idea from goofypicker and this pitch from last week.

I am making this pick based on what I think are going to be outstanding results this quarter due to the wide outbreak of flu this season. In my area, I have never seen the flu at these levels. And when you have the flu nothing makes you feel better than a nice hot cup of theraflu. I know flu season comes every year but this was the worst year anyone I know of can remember. This along with their many other products will result in an outstanding first quarter this year.

I'm inclined to agree. Out of the four highest-rated stocks on this week's list, Novartis looks the most attractive. Novartis sports a 9.2 P/E, and analysts expect it to grow its profits at nearly 12% per year over the next half decade. What's more, Novartis's GAAP earnings come in below its free cash flow by more than 19% -- so the price-to-free cash flow ratio here is just 7.5.

Throw in a 3% dividend to tide you over while you wait for Mr. Market to agree that Novartis is cheap, and even if this one doesn't bounce right away, you won't suffer much while you wait.

Time to chime in
Of course, the aim of this column isn't just to tell you what I think about Novartis -- or any of the other drug stocks on today's list. We really want to hear your thoughts. Is there a reason big pharma took a big whooping last week, or is this just opportunity knocking, waiting for you to open the door? Click on over to Motley Fool CAPS and tell us what you think.

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