Individual stocks can surge 10%, 25%, or even higher in a short period of time. And they can fall just as far, just as quickly. For example, shares of GenVec (NASDAQ:GNVC) fell 26% last Wednesday when it chafed investors with plans to offer $28 million in common stock and warrants to institutional investors. 

Big drops in share price can sometimes signal material defects or new risks. But at other times, they're simply pullbacks along with the larger pessimism facing the market. Fortunately, we have Motley Fool CAPS, a great resource to help us understand the larger picture behind big price drops.

Is the sky falling?
CAPS contains more than just the crowd's opinions. Its best-performing members' votes count more in shaping each company's rating than do the picks of their poorer-performing peers. That way, investors can intelligently use the collective wisdom of more than 145,000 CAPS members to make better decisions.

We'll use CAPS' handy stock screening tool to quickly zero in on companies with three factors: their prices have fallen at least 20% in the past four weeks, they have a market cap greater than $100 million, and they have a beta less than 3.

Company

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

4-Week
Price Change

Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL)

***

(23.9%)

National Bank of Greece (NYSE:NBG)

****

(23.6%)

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM)

****

(20.6%)

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.
Price return Jan. 8 through Feb. 2.

Hecla Mining
Precious-metals stocks like Hecla Mining, Silver Wheaton (NYSE:SLW), and Coeur d'Alene Mines (NYSE:CDE) have enjoyed a nice run over the past year, but have recently seen some weakness as the dollar has shown more strength and prices of precious metals like silver have pulled back. Still, investors aren't too disappointed. Hecla recently reported that it produced a record amount of silver in 2009, while ending the year with $100 million in cash and paying down a good portion of its debt.

Despite the recent drop, many CAPS members remain bullish on the long-term outlook for silver, with about 93% of the 937 CAPS members rating Hecla Mining expecting it to outperform the broader market.     

National Bank of Greece
While the U.S. recently revealed a sky-high budget deficit juiced by initiatives aimed at jump-starting the economy, concern has grown over the financial stability of Greece, as the nation recently announced a budget deficit that far surpasses the limit set by the European Union. This triggered downgrades on its debt. As fears have arisen over the country's ability to continue to borrow money, Greek banks have taken a hit due to their exposure to government bonds and their potential funding problems if things turn worse.

National Bank of Greece's CAPS rating has recently slid down a star, but it still sits at an above-average four-star rating, with 97% of the 598 members rating the bank believing the stock will outpace the market.  

Qualcomm
Qualcomm recently joined tech giants like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Intel in reporting a huge leap in quarterly earnings, but investors were more focused on Qualcomm's revenue and earnings forecast for the coming quarter when they punished shares. Faced with lower-priced device sales in emerging markets and a competitive pricing environment -- with competitors like Broadcom turning up the heat in offering comparable chipsets -- Qualcomm's profit is suffering from the effects of lower average selling prices.

Still, CAPS members see many other areas of strength giving them reason to hold a bullish long-term outlook for the company. As such, 92% of the 1,677 CAPS members rating Qualcomm are betting the stock outperforms the S&P going forward.

Ultimately, whether you believe a fall in any stock is warranted, your own research is more important than collective opinions. CAPS can help you quickly focus your due diligence, though, and even point out potential pitfalls you may not have seen.

Add your take on these or any of the 5,300 stocks that 145,000-plus members have covered in Motley Fool CAPS. It's totally free to be a part of the community, and the payback is more than worth it.

The Motley Fool Inside Value team looks for beaten down stocks that are selling at bargain prices well below their intrinsic value. To see the full list of cheap companies the service is recommending today, take a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Dave Mock habitually looks for silver linings in even the darkest of clouds. He owns shares of Intel and Qualcomm and is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. Intel and Microsoft are Inside Value picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a buy calls position on Intel and a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool's disclosure policy is made of sugar and spice and everything nice.