"'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 150,000 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)

Ingersoll-Rand  (NYSE:IR)




Electronic Arts  (NASDAQ:ERTS)




Boston Scientific  (NYSE:BSX)




Buffalo Wild Wings  (NASDAQ:BWLD)




Sprint Nextel  (NYSE:S)




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
For investors betting on a rebound last week, earnings season proved a double-edged sword. A combination of earnings misses and weak forecasts wreaked havoc at Ingersoll-Rand and Sprint. Boston Scientific and Buffalo Wild. Electronic Arts, meanwhile, suffered not just the injury of its own shot-in-the-foot quarter, but also the insult of seeing archrival Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) soar after reporting a bumper crop of profits.

Regardless, one quarter's results do not a bear case make, and for the most part (sorry, Sprint, you're odd-man-out here), Fools are content to stick by their stocks and hope for a recovery. As we're about to see, CAPS members are especially confident in Ingersoll-Rand, where a five-star rating suggests an even better move may be go right ahead, and buy on weakness today.

The bull case for Ingersoll-Rand
Why buy when prospects appear bleak? Because, Bojacked, tells us, appearances can be deceiving: "Looking at the great depression, rebuilding the infrastructure is what brought us out of it. Ingersoll manufactures things like equipment to build roads and major industrial machinery. With Obama's plan to rebuild America and rebuilding the infrastructure is a major part of that."

Meanwhile, if this rebuilding effort takes a while to materialize, VUCommodore believes Ingersoll "has the necessary financial strength to weather a short to medium term 'double dip' in the economy … This Berkshire (NYSE:BRK-B) holding boasts a substantial dividend yield."

Writing back in June, jonkhr argued further that Ingersoll "is positioning itself for a rebound by aquiring Trane which is a very solid company and disposing of Bobcat and combining the Trane 401K program with the IR 401K program to cut costs. All moves are signaling cost cutting measures on all fronts to become lean and mean."

Lean, mean, and packing cash
Just how good is Ingersoll looking these days? From one perspective (the one Wall Street sees), not very. Fourth-quarter revenues declined 3% year over year, while profits missed forecasts by a sizeable margin. And with earnings forecasts for Q1 2010 falling short of analyst estimates, it's easy to see why investors got spooked last week.

I just happen to think they're wrong to worry.

You see, johkhr wasn't just whistling Dixie with that "lean & mean" comment. In 2009, cost-cutting helped Ingersoll produce its biggest haul of free cash flow in years -- $1.5 billion. That's a big improvement over the $600 million and change Ingersoll averaged over the previous five years. It also means that, if Ingersoll can keep up this performance, that the stock's selling for less than seven times annual free cash flow, which could be a real bargain if the company achieves its long-term growth targets.

Foolish takeaway
Now am I convinced that Ingersoll's a buy at today's prices? No, or at least not yet. While the stock looks awfully cheap, I'll need to see further proof that Ingersoll can maintain the level of cash generation it demonstrated last year, and furthermore, evidence that it will continue putting that cash to good use, paying down the debt incurred when it bought Train in 2008.

Braver Fools than I may prefer to buy in today on faith that Ingersoll will live up to its promise. As for me, I'll wait and see.

(Agree? Disagree? Visit Motley Fool CAPS now and tell us why.)

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. 695 out of more than 150,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Berkshire Hathaway and Sprint Nextel are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Activision Blizzard, Berkshire Hathaway, and Electronic Arts are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Buffalo Wild Wings is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a synthetic long position on Activision Blizzard. The Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard and Berkshire Hathaway.