" 'Don't catch a falling knife' ... 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."

So runs the thesis of my recurring Fool column "Get Ready for the Bounce," in which we search among the wreckage of Mr. Market's overturned cutlery drawer, hoping to find future winners in a pile of 52-week losers. But do we really need to sit around for a whole year, waiting for a potential bouncer?

I say nay. Sometimes, stocks fall far in far less time than a year -- and like a superball dropped from the balcony, the harder they fall, the higher they bounce. Today, we're going to look at a few equities that've suffered dramatic drops over the past week. With a little help from the 135,000 members of Motley Fool CAPS, we hope to find an opportunity or two for you:


How far from 52-week high?

Recent Price

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Hess  (NYSE:HES)




Hecla Mining  (NYSE:HL)








Meritage Homes




Lennar  (NYSE:LEN)




Companies are selected by screening on finviz.com for abrupt 10% or greater price drops over the past week. 52-week high and recent price data provided by finviz.com. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

Five super falls -- one superball
Last week was another tough one for housing stocks, and as you'd expect, we find two such companies playing anchor to today's list. (So once again, the market is proving my fellow Fool Alyce Lomax right on the money.) Then, CIT and Hecla took tumbles for different reasons -- the former, hurt by a credit downgrade; the latter apparently punished for diluting its shareholders.

But what's the deal with Hess? I mean, oil's reaching for the sky again, and Hess is in the oil business after all. Yet investors were left sobbing as their stock tumbled 15% last week ... or were those tears of joy at the opportunity we've been handed?

The bull case for Hess
We'll start off with a brief introduction from brophool, who in November described Hess as an "American energy company that has a large exploration arm ... and is well positioned to provide a good chunck of the worlds oil/gas and electricity needs going forward. Hess has grown it's petroleum reserves every year since I have been watching and refines is own gasoline."

CAPS All-Star Dylan67 agress, adding that he likes "oil long term" and thinks that now is a "[g]ood time to buy and hold" Hess.

But not quite as good a time to buy as six months ago. That's when TexasLonghorns noticed that: "John Hess just bought over $9 MILLION of his own company's stock." TexasLonghorns took that as a cue to pose a rhetorical question: "Think he knows something we don't?" He also endorsed the stock, and that pick is currently beating the market by two percentage points even after last week's drop.

OK, so all that sounds pretty good for a start. But it still doesn't tell us why Hess sold off last week -- or what the chances are of it bouncing right back. So let's turn to those questions for a moment. Pundits attribute last week's sell-off to a report from Hess's partner in the Santos Basin oil project off the coast of Brazil -- maybe you've heard of them? ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM)? Essentially a progress report, the filing Exxon made with Brazilian regulators confirmed how deep the project had dug, but did not mention whether the consortium had yet struck (black) gold.

While some commentators argue that the filing wasn't meant to report on results, investors appear to be taking a "no news is bad news" approach, and are punishing Hess for Exxon's sin of omission. Me, I'm not so sure. I freely admit that I'm no expert on the Brazilian oil and gas regulatory regime, so I don't know what was and was not supposed to be in the Santos Basin report. But regardless of what the future holds for Hess in Brazil, the company's existing, proven reserves alone make the stock look like a bargain.

Consider: Hess boasts 970 million barrels of proven oil reserves, and another 2,773 billion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (equivalent to 462.2 million barrels, so 1.43 "bboe" in all). Divide that number into the company's market cap, and Mr. Market seems to be ascribing a value of just $13.50 per barrel to this company's oil reserves. (Oil that, by the way, is fetching near $70 once "barreled" today.)

Last week, we saw Petro-Canada's (NYSE:PCZ) reserves valued at a nearly 50% greater price. Apply similar calculations to the reserves at ExxonMobil and you'll find the company valued at about $15.50 per barrel, while even Chevron (NYSE:CVX) fetches $12.40. So to me, Hess's sudden slide last week offers a rare opportunity to acquire proven energy reserves at a mere fraction of their worth.

Time to chime in
Of course, the aim of this column isn't just to tell you what I think about Hess -- or even what other CAPS players are saying. We really want to hear your thoughts. Click on over to Motley Fool CAPS and tell us what you think.

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

Meritage Homes is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor 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 was recently ranked No. 918 out of more than 135,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.