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 Maguire Properties (NYSE: MPG) fell 14% one day recently after a Wall Street analyst downgraded the stock, noting the company's troubling cash position.

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 today. 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 160,000 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 15% in the last four weeks, and they have a market cap greater than $100 million and a beta of less than 3.

Company

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

4-Week
Price Change

TASER International (Nasdaq: TASR)

***

(20.2%)

Mirant (NYSE: MIR)

***

(18.3%)

CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX)

****

(16.8%)

Source: Motley Fool CAPS. Price change March 12 through April 7.

TASER International
TASER's shares have recently eased back after a recent run that saw shares breaking out to new 52-week highs. Despite a couple of recently announced sizeable follow-on orders from existing customers, the stun-gun maker recently offered first-quarter revenue estimates that were less than what Wall Street analysts were forecasting, and one analyst still cites weak municipal budgets as a negative factor for TASER's business. Some investors are looking beyond the short-term gyrations though, and still like the company's potential to profit from dealing with crime. Many CAPS members haven't budged either and are holding their bullish call as 93% of the 1,149 members rating TASER say it's an outperformer.

Mirant
Just when many CAPS members were feeling shares in energy provider Mirant were a steal, the stock went into an extended decline that took its CAPS rating down a couple of notches as well. The 32% decline that shares have seen year-to-date has some looking to double down, but the company also recently lowered its 2010 guidance following an earnings report that revealed a fourth-quarter loss and a 61% fall in 2009 net income. The flurry of downgrades that Citigroup gave out to a number of power companies including Mirant, PPL (NYSE: PPL), and NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG), has rattled some nerves too, as the analyst expects rising power generating costs. Some CAPS members still see a potential turnaround with the company though, as about 95% of the 395 members rating Mirant expect it to outperform the broader market.               

CONSOL Energy
CONSOL Energy has recently shifted gears and announced a few major moves that will have it throwing more natural gas in the mix with its coal assets. It recently agreed to gas up with the purchase of the Appalachian natural gas properties of Dominion Resources (NYSE: D) and also looks to pick up the rest of the shares of CNX Gas that it doesn't already own. Shareholders will see some dilution as the company taps the equity markets to help finance the deals -- another reason why shares have fallen considerably since the deals were announced. But some investors think the additions to the company will be a long-term benefit and 93% of the 613 CAPS members rating CONSOL Energy still expect it to be a market-beating investment.

Ultimately, whether or not 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, and even point out potential pitfalls you may not have seen.

Add your take on these or any of the 5,400 stocks that 160,000-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 Stock Advisor service looks for companies with strong management poised to beat the market over the long haul. To see all the stocks that have helped Tom and David Gardner beat the market by 59 points on average, take a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Dave Mock habitually looks for silver linings in even the darkest of clouds. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. The Fool's disclosure policy is made of sugar and spice and everything nice.