"We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy, and to be greedy only when others are fearful."
-- Warren Buffett

Of all the Oracle of Omaha's orations, this one holds a special place in Foolish investors' hearts. When looking to bag a bargain, a panicked sell-off by jittery investors offers you a great chance to snap up stocks on the cheap.

In the short term, professional traders' pessimism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Desperate institutions lower their asking prices to get rid of a stock, prompting buyers' bid prices to fall in tandem, creating the very price decline that both sides feared in the first place -- until the selling stops.

Until it does, savvy investors can "get greedy," snapping up bargains from these fearful sellers. (Assuming they really are bargains.) In today's column, we'll see which stocks Wall Street's motivated sellers are most frantic to unload -- and whether you should buy them.


CAPS Rating (out of 5)

VSE (Nasdaq: VSEC)


TASER (Nasdaq: TASR)


SunPower Corporation (Nasdaq: SPWRA)


Perfect World (Nasdaq: PWRD)


Massey Energy (NYSE: MEE)


Companies are selected from the "Institutional Ownership Down Last Month" list published on MSN Money after close of trading on Friday. Recent price provided by Yahoo! Finance. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

Wall Street vs. Main Street
Up on Wall Street, the pinstripe-and-wingtip crowd can't sell these stocks fast enough, but down here on Main Street, individual investors take a more equivocal view. While Massey's well-publicized mining "issues," Perfect World's perfectly profitless income statement, and the recent negative commentary on Taser and SunPower all give reason for hesitation, there is one company on which Fools and Wise Men couldn't disagree more strongly.

What has Fools feeling so optimistic about this tiny government contractor? Well, there's the chart, of course. VSE had an absolutely fantastic 2009, in which the stock roughly doubled off of its March lows, and earned VSE a place among: "the fast-growing shakers and movers" on CAPS member FlashNSizzle's "watch list."

The company's quick growth pace apparently attracted attention from Investor's Business Daily as well. CAPS All-Star rexlove penned a one-word love letter to VSE in January, naming the paper's "canslim" strategy for picking momentum stocks as his reason for endorsing the company.

Yet VSE disappointed investors mightily soon after, when it reported a steep decline in revenues in February, resulting from the expiration of a key U.S. Army contract. As the stock's chart reveals, fear has trumped greed among VSE investors ever since.

Times, are they a-changin'?
But could that be about to change? Earlier this month, VSE announced the receipt of a new contract to replace the old, a $42.5 million deal to provide decontamination and demolition support services to the U.S. Navy. Meanwhile, CAPS member Condaan notes that the stock sells for a sub-9 P/E ratio, is "growing sales" again, and "EPS" as well. So perhaps now really is the time to dive back into this stock?

Consider: So far, no analyst has climbed out on a limb and projected precisely how fast VSE might grow over the long term. But priced at only 8.4 times trailing earnings, and a bit less than that valued on forward profits expectations, VSE looks plenty cheap if we assume high-single-digits growth going forward. Larger, slow-growing rivals like General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC), and SAIC regularly sell for P/E multiples 50% higher than what VSE shares fetch.

Given this, if VSE it can grow anywhere in the double digits, I'd go so far as to say the stock is a bargain -- and if VSE can do something on the order of the 42% annualized growth it's achieved over the last five years, the stock's an out-and-out steal.

Time to chime in
That's just my opinion, of course, and while I'm entitled to it … on Motley Fool CAPS, you are just as entitled to disagree. If you believe VSE's story is overhyped, and its stock priced to fall farther, here's your chance to help your fellow investors out, and wave them away from the stock.

Click over to Motley Fool CAPS now, and sound the alarm.

Is there such a thing as a growth stock selling for an attractive price? There is. There are. They're here.

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. 701 out of more than 160,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

General Dynamics is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Perfect World is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation and Motley Fool Options has recommended writing puts on it.