With all the volatility in the markets today, there's no shortage of market seers attempting to call a bottom. Ben Bernanke called a bottom not once, but twice. Heck, even Keanu Reeves laid out what a world-ending market bottom looks like.

Investors should consider buying stocks after a big decline, when pessimism has unduly beaten good companies down to great prices. That's why we here at the Fool -- and 145,000-plus investors like us -- look to the Motley Fool CAPS community to help sniff out the real opportunities from languishing companies driven by speculation.

A real bottom or another leg down?
Of course, there's no foolproof method for timing a market bottom. But CAPS has a great balance of quantitative and qualitative resources available on 5,300 stocks, and even a nifty stock screening tool to help investors quickly zero in on potential investment opportunities. Once we've rounded up our candidates, we can use all the information in CAPS to test whether each company has already hit bottom or simply primed shareholders for further pain.

I've used the CAPS screener to pick out $100 million-plus companies that have seen their stock price appreciate by at least 15% in the past 13 weeks even while they remain at least 50% below their 52-week high. If you'd like, run this screen yourself -- just keep in mind that results may change as the market does.


CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Price Change^

% Below 52-Week High





S&T Bancorp




US Airways Group (NYSE:LCC)




Source: Motley Fool CAPS.
^ Sept. 11 through Dec. 7.

The bottom case
After several down years, US Airways may finally be looking up these days. Some investors believe that airlines like US Airways are trading at bargain prices that are too good to pass up in light of the potential upside when the economy turns around. Several airline stocks, including US Airways, AMR (NYSE:AMR), and Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), have seen renewed investor optimism recently as each has tacked on some solid gains in the past week.

The National Business Travel Association expects business travel volume to grow next year and US Airways' president said that the carrier's revenue from corporate travelers has recently been increasing year over year.

Although the company isn't posting significant growth yet, improvement is showing in its total unit revenue ending flat in November, compared to big decreases earlier in the year. And with the deferral of some Airbus deliveries, US Airways will improve liquidity by pushing back $2.5 billion in expenses and increase its available cash by a total of $450 million by the end of next year.  

Or dead cat in disguise?
Even though many investors see US Airways as a tight spring ready to snap back, a good deal of CAPS members remain hesitant, as the company has posted losses in seven of the past eight quarters. The airline industry also saw third-quarter losses from carriers such as UAL's (NASDAQ:UAUA) United Airlines and Continental (NYSE:CAL), which demonstrates the distance the companies still need to cover to return to profitable operations.

 And while things may be stabilizing for US Airways, some investors favor other discount carriers, such as Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) or JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU), which had a much stronger rebound in November traffic. US Airways recognizes that it can't continue to lose money indefinitely, and many investors see a very challenging revenue environment during a time when average roundtrip fares aren't much higher than they were 11 years ago, based on Air Transport Association numbers.

What's your call?
Overall, CAPS members are wary of US Airways, with just 57% of the 693 members rating the airline bullish that it will outperform the broader market. For my part, the cheap US Airways shares are definitely tempting, but so many catalysts for improvement remain outside of the company's control, including the price of fuel. For these reasons, I wouldn't be a buyer.

But what ultimately counts is your own opinion -- CAPS is just there to help you form it. The best part is that the Motley Fool CAPS database is all free, and you can even add your own insight on any of the 5,300 stocks that our 145,000-plus members have covered.

The Motley Fool Stock Advisor service looks for companies with strong management poised to beat the market over the long haul. To see all the stocks that have helped Tom and David Gardner beat the market by 50 points on average, take a free 30-day trial.

Since getting some new sneakers, Fool contributor Dave Mock is showing a little more spring in his step, too. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. The Fool's disclosure policy sometimes gets wound too tight and needs a deep-tissue massage.