"'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)

NYSE Euronext  (NYSE:NYX)




Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)




Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU)




Ford (NYSE:F)




Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL)




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
Wow. Now that was unpleasant. Last week treated investors to a lightning-fast, five-day flashback to the darkest hours of 2009. And as stocks crumbled across the major market indices, some of the biggest names in investing met their downfall. Worse still -- a lot of very smart investors seem to believe this is only the beginning. Judging from their anemic ratings on CAPS, several of the stocks named up above have even further to fall.

Several ... but not all.

The bull case for NYSE Euronext
Standing in stark contrast to the two- and three-star ratings that surround it, NYSE Euronext shines as a beacon of five-star quality in a sea of lesser stocks. But even so, is it good enough for your portfolio?

Not meaning to kibbitz, but CAPS member PERURICAN believes you should consider taking a position in NYSE. After all, "we're about to get out of the cirsis, people has money to invest, interests rates and CDs are paying little, they will invest in stock market, directly benefitting this stock, it pauys good dividends too... " Given a choice between collecting 0.1% interest on your bank account and accepting a bit of equity risk in exchange for, say, a 2.5% dividend on ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) stock ... well, I can see why a lot of people might be thinking that after last week's sell-off is a great time to do a little stock trading.

But NYSE is not sitting idle, waiting for investors to make up their minds about investing, no sir. As GoldenWarrior points out, the company has taken affirmative action to boost profit by, for example, "[c]onsolidating their data centers from about 12 to 2," creating "$82 million in synergies from the Euronext acquisition and $130 million in 2011," and various other "new initiatives" aimed at getting growth "back on track."

As All-Star investor Jackcodak argues: "Sure, [NYSE Euronext] has had difficulties living up to its cost savings promises in the past. However what we find is a company that is integrating its Euronext and Future trading vehicles quite well. They make an assortment of fees, including charging flash traders a premium for the space that they occupy so close to the servers. In the long run, NYSE will grow nicely along with the broader marker."

How nice is "nicely?"
Now I admit that I'm no great fan of NYSE right now -- and I haven't been a fan for quite a long time. The company hasn't generated one red cent of free cash flow over the last 12 months -- a big red flag in my book.

And yet, Jackcodak has a good point about the long-term story here. According to the consensus of analysts who follow the stock, NYSE is on pace to grow its profit at better than 12% annually over the next five years. If you buy the analysts' story, the company could become profitable again as soon as this year, and currently sells for just 12 times this year's estimated earnings.

Meanwhile, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with archrival Nasdaq OMX (NASDAQ:NDAQ), NYSE represents one-half of an American duopoly in stock trading. (If you can imagine another company breaking into this market -- well, you've got a more active imagination than I.) So over the very long term, I have to agree with my fellow Fools that this company will dominate its market, and thrive as a business. To me, that's as clear as day. An obvious truism.

Time to chime in
What's less obvious to me is whether the stock, as currently priced, already factors in these many years of future success. Whether last week's sell-off has made NYSE sufficiently C-H-E-A-P to justify buying in now -- or whether we should wait for an even steeper discount.

The answering of that question, I'll leave up to you.

Nasdaq OMX Group is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. NYSE Euronext is a Rule Breakers selection. Ford Motor is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a write puts position on Nasdaq OMX Group.

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