"'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 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)





Delta Petroleum (NASDAQ:DPTR)




Bebe Stores (NASDAQ:BEBE)




Nevsun Resources  (NYSE:NSU)




UltraShort S&P500 ProShares  (NYSE:SDS)




Companies are selected by screening on finviz.com for abrupt 5% 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
The Christmas holiday cut short our trading time last week, but never fear -- the five equities named above all found ample time to plunge.

Why? Excellent question. The reasons behind the drops at Delta Petro and Bebe remain a mystery, but in the other instances, we can at least understand the sell-offs. For example, Santa dropped a big lump of coal on Nevsun shareholders Christmas Eve when the U.N. imposed sanctions on Eritrea -- threatening Nevsun's gold-mining activities within that country. And with the Standard & Poor's index rising 2% for the abbreviated week, it was pretty much a given that any ETF aiming to go "UltraShort" the S&P 500 would wind up in the red.

But it's temp staffer and top-ranked stock Kforce that attracts our attention today.

The bull case for Kforce
In April, CAPS All-Star and all-around good Fool TMFHelical argued: "Pharma cutbacks [i.e., layoffs at Kforce clients like Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Merck (NYSE:MRK)] will require more rather than less temporary staff." Bad news for employees losing full-time paychecks with benefits -- good news for Kforce.

And Kforce does business with a wider range of clients than just Big Pharma. CAPS member NetscribeBusServ introduced us to Kforce back in 2007 as:

[O]ne of the [10] largest professional staffing firms, with 80 offices in 45 markets in the U.S, providing flexible and permanent staffing solutions to its clients in three segments namely, Technology, Finance and Accounting, and Health and Life Sciences. ... Recently the company acquired Bradson Corporation, which is a provider of finance and accounting professional services to the federal government for the last two decades.

Tempest in a GAO teapot
Perversely, Bradson is also the reason Kforce has lost nearly 20% of its market cap since mid-December. Seems the Feds are upset with the firm's now-renamed "Kforce Government Solutions" (KGS) division's helping the Bureau of Land Management to draft a request for proposals ... then bidding on and winning said proposal. It's not exactly clear why this is not kosher, but whatever the reason, the Feds have barred Kforce from bidding on new government work -- for any government agency -- until the matter is resolved.

But here's the thing -- Kforce lost 20% of its market cap in response to this brouhaha, right? Yet over the past four quarters KGS accounted for less than 12% of Kforce's total revenue, and barely 13% of its gross profit. So the stock's drop seems a bit of an overreaction to me.

Foolish takeaway
Will Kforce bounce right back as soon as investors discover their mistake? I'm not sure. After all, they've had two weeks to wise up already, yet the stock's still in dive-bomb mode.

Plus, it's not as if Kforce was any kind of screaming bargain before the government tiff broke out. Selling for around 9 times trailing free cash flow today, and projected to grow at an annualized 7% five-year clip previously, Kforce still looks a mite pricey. Add in the risk that government action will put the kibosh on that 7% growth rate, and I'm not convinced this stock will bounce right back.

Of course, that's just my opinion. Now, tell us yours.

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

Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. The Fool owns shares of Bebe Stores.

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. 1025 out of more than 145,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.