In my recurring Fool column, "Get Ready for the Bounce," we search for future winners in a pile of 52-week losers. But do we really need to sit around for a whole year, waiting for a fallen stock to bounce back?

Nope. Sometimes stocks fall hard 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'll look at a few equities that have suffered dramatic drops over the past week. With a little help from the 165,000 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)

Patriot Coal (NYSE: PCX)




Yingli Green Energy (NYSE: YGE)




Suntech Power (NYSE: STP)




First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR)




Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL)




Companies are selected by screening on for abrupt 10% or greater price drops over the past week. 52-week high and recent price data provided by CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

Last week ended with the S&P 500 selling for about what it started at on Monday, but not all stocks were so even-keeled, as the five 10%-droppers named above demonstrate. As you'll quickly discern from their names, much of the damage last week fell upon the solar industry, as high-profile champions like First Solar and MEMC Electronic disappointed on earnings. But the damage wasn't limited to solar stocks.

Which of these things is not like the others?
Turns out, right up there with the solar industry (in terms of both losses and investor enthusiasm despite them) is a little company by the name of Patriot, which I think has a big future.

You see, in contrast to the solar industry, which still cannot produce energy at anything like the cost of its dinosaur-bone-fueled competitors, Patriot generates its kilowatt-hours the old-fashioned way -- it burns them. With every passing week (it seems) bringing news of a new electric car idea from Fisker or Tesla, GM or Ford, and worried murmurs increasing over how we're going to generate the KwH to charge the things, I see a bright future for burning coal, and I'm not the only one.

The bull case for Patriot Coal
After all, as longtime CAPS member kahunacfa points out, "Coal is a carbon fuel in abundance in the United States. Coal is a major fuel used for the generation of electric power" and "for use in industrial heat generaltion for the production and extraction of metals from their ore," to boot.

Fellow CAPS investor unusualpro believes "coal is here to stay."

Why? With energy demand likely only to increase over time, 4everlost observes that logically, "demand for coal is going to increase over the next 5 years." A good way to play the trend, suggests 4everlost, would be to buy companies "that have low debt and a low cost structure."

Digging for a reason to own Patriot Coal
With only $200 million or so worth of net debt on its balance sheet, Patriot Coal is one of the "cleaner" (balance-sheeted) coal companies out there. It's certainly less debt-laden than larger rivals such as Massey Energy, Consol, or Peabody.

Granted, I'm as unenthused as ever about the company's continued lack of free cash flow (a point I've highlighted in the past, while panning the stock.) But recent developments, such as the stock losing half its value since I last criticized it, have me thinking now might be a good time to take a second look.

Consider: According to news reports, one reason Patriot's stock is flagging right now is the expectation that new regulatory restrictions will raise its cost of production roughly $2 a ton, to as much as $59 for Appalachian coal, and perhaps $42 for coal from the Illinois Basin. But according to the Department of Energy, even if these higher costs don't get passed right along to consumers (and you know they will), they wouldn't necessarily be enough to keep this company from earning a profit.

Foolish takeaway
For example, with central Appalachian coal fetching nearly $68 a ton, and Illinois black gold $41 a ton, there's every reason to believe that Patriot can emphasize mining the one, perhaps break even on the other, and still come out ahead. Maybe even ... generate some cash for a change.

I'm not saying this is what will happen. In fact, given Patriot's history, I'm not even certain it's likely to happen. But from where I sit, the numbers at least suggest the possibility of it happening. And if and when it does happen, I suspect we'll find Patriot selling for considerably more than the near-book value valuation it carries today.

Of course, that's just my opinion. You are certainly free to disagree -- and in fact, if you do, we'd love to hear why. Pull up a soapbox, and tell us all about it.

First Solar and Suntech Power Holdings are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections, and Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation, but 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 ranked No. 507 out of more than 165,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.