"'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."

That's 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?

Of course not! 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 145,000 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)

Excel Maritime  (NYSE:EXM)




Melco Crown (NASDAQ:MPEL)




National Bank of Greece




Allos Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ALTH)




Kroger (NYSE:KR)




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 a scary one for investors in these five companies -- but the reasons for the declines weren't always obvious. True, some of these companies suffered bona fide bad news in recent days. A Fitch downgrade of Greece's sovereign rating (and threatened S&P downgrade) sank National Bank of Greece, for example. And when Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG) snapped up a rival to Allos' Folotyn cancer drug, that was certainly bad news for the latter's investors.

In contrast, I expected investors to take more of a shine to Melco's Crown in the wake of Las Vegas Sands' (NYSE:LVS) disappointing "Sands China" IPO. (What's bad for a rival is good for Melco, right?) And it seems Kroger's decline stemmed partially from a UBS downgrade mid-last week.

As for Excel Maritime, it appears the company is suffering from some recent weakness in shipping rates. However, many investors now see the company's stock price as unfairly punished, and believe Excel should bounce back with the broader economy. Perhaps that's why, out of these four stocks -- each widely praised by investors on CAPS -- Excel alone scores a perfect five-star rating.

The bull case for Excel Maritime
According to ccmooretx, the bull case for Excel is as simple as this: "Economy getting better, more goods start moving, shippers do better." Q.E.D.

And if you ask CAPS All-Star MSUalum: "[Excel Maritime] is one of the best companies in shipping. They will be very profitable in the future."

spotpetes agrees: "[DryShips (NASDAQ:DRYS)] is a more popular pick ... [but] this stock looks better to me. ... now at 8.26, still almost 4 $less then its high for last 52 weeks...so has more upside before it reaches it's high."

And if spotpetes liked Excel at $8.26 last month, you have to figure he loves it at today's low, low price of just six bucks and change. But should you?

A look at Excel's spreadsheet shows plenty to worry about, sure. Debt-laden and unprofitable, Excel looks far from the pink of health. Any time a company shows a trailing P/E of "N/A," investors should be wary. But P/E ratios don't always tell the whole story.

Take a closer look at Excel's cash flow statement, for example, and you'll see that this "unprofitable" company actually generated nearly $95 million in cash profits over the last 12 months. Not all Excel's rivals can say as much; DryShips for example, spotlighted as more "popular" by spotpetes up above, doesn't generate anywhere near the free cash flow Excel does. Neither does Genco. Or Eagle Bulk. Or -- well, I needn't go on. You get the picture.

Foolish takeaway
Even if you factor Excel Maritime's sizeable debt load into the picture, the company still boasts an enterprise value-to-free cash flow ratio of just 18. To me, that seems an attractive price to pay for a projected 21% grower like Excel. Long story short, there's a good reason why this stock enjoys such strong support on CAPS -- and why you should look at it, too.

But hey, feel free to disagree. If you think Excel Maritime deserves to be put in drydock, or simply believe that one of its rivals is a better bet, we'd love to hear why. Click here to tell us.

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 No. 764 out of more than 145,000 members. Melco Crown Entertainment is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. The Fool has a disclosure policy.