"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 WSJ.com:


52-Week High

Recent Price

CAPS Rating (5 max):

Abbott Laboratories  (NYSE:ABT)




Arena Pharmaceuticals












Companies are selected from the "New Highs & Lows" list published on WSJ.com on Friday last week. 52-week high and recent price provided by Yahoo! Finance. 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. You just know that some of these babies are gonna bounce right back once the suds subside.

And in fact, the last couple of weeks have been pretty good ones for bouncing babies. Bona fide 52-week-low-hitters are getting harder and harder to find -- and as you can see in the ratings up above, investors are starting to get more cautious, now that we've rebounded from (what appears to have been) the bottom.

One stock that fits the bill on both counts, though, is Big Pharma standout Abbott Labs. It hit a new low last week, andFools by and large think it's ready to move higher. Let's find out why.

The bull case for Abbott Laboratories 
CAPS All-Star hazelnut283 calls Abbott:

… an internationally operated health care company with divisions not only in Europe (Germany being that region's main hub) but also in Latin America, South Asia (like India), East Asia and Oceania. It not only manufactures drugs and health products, but also creates the machines that test drugs and chemicals. Not the most exciting or exotic business, but highly profitable in an age of (no-pun intended) an aging baby-boomer population. On top of that, [Abbott] offers a decent dividend and has a reputation for treating its employees (even contractors) quite well.

Fellow All-Star quinpeung adds that while "Americans can live without a lot of things... this is a drug-based society that loves the quick fixes the big pharmas provide. But big pharma does not work cheap." (Bad news for those of us who buy the drugs -- but great news for shareholders of Abbott, who reap the benefits of this firm's 16.5% profit margin.)

Nor is Abbott shy about sharing the wealth. In fact, that's one thing All-Star investor Josher429 especially likes about the company: "... any company that raises their dividend in this economic environment deserves a BIG GREEN thumb."

The factors working in Abbott's favor are pretty obvious. And yet, these same factors also argue in favor of Abbott's rivals -- more so, in fact. While Abbott's 2008 operating margin is wide, it's only even with that of Novartis (NYSE:NVS), lags that of Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY), and trails well behind the numbers boasted by Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Merck (NYSE:MRK).

As for Josher429's praise of Abbott's dividend hike -- give me a break! I mean, sure, the stock's yielding 3.6% today, which is better than the 3.2% Abbott was paying before its hike. But each of those big boys above pays 4.7% or better to their shareholders. (Bristol-Myers Squibb leads the pack with a 6.1% divvy.) Relative to its rivals, this Abbott's poor as a churchmouse.

Foolish takeaway
Viewed in isolation, sure, Abbott's a fine company. Weighed on its own merits, it might very well bounce back from last week's lows. But there are better places than Abbott to put your money. Cheaper stocks such as Merck. Faster growers such as Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN). More generous dividend payers like Bristol-Myers Squibb. When you come right down to it, I think you're better off buying any one of these before tithing to the Abbott.

Of course, that's just my opinion. What's yours?

Novartis is a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation. Pfizer is an Inside Value selection. SonoSite is a Rule Breakers pick.

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 No. 313 out of more than 130,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.