Overall, the third quarter was pretty solid.

The broad market is finally up a bit on the year because of a recent rally, but stocks have been anything but steady. Because small-cap stocks are generally more volatile, they've experienced a bit of a greater drop than most. That's almost to be expected. However, what's interesting is that large-cap stocks have actually fallen a slight bit more than the broad index -- and these are the billion-dollar companies that usually hold up well in a recession or a double dip.

The good news is that now the market is ripe for cherry-picking. Hundreds of small and large successful companies have gotten hammered as of late, and that means there are some great value plays to be had.

To get you started, I've screened for stocks that have dropped significantly over the past three months and that are trading for very low price-to-earnings ratios. In addition, we've used our 170,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS investor community to select only the best of the best, those companies with either a four- or five-star ranking. Here are three of the top companies from the list:


13-Week Price Change

Price-to-Earnings Ratio

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Aegean Marine Petroleum Network (NYSE: ANW)




JA Solar (Nasdaq: JASO)




Lloyds Banking Group (NYSE: LYG)




Source: CAPS data as of Dec. 22.

Aegean Marine Petroleum provides and markets fuel products to shippers, dry bulk carriers, and tankers almost all over the world. So it's no surprise that this company often will only do as well as the shipping industry in general, and things haven't exactly been all roses as of late. In fact, Aegean delivered a dismal last quarter, reporting earnings of $0.16 per share, well below estimates of $0.35 per share. Other shippers and service providers such as Paragon Shipping (Nasdaq: PRGN) and Nordic American Tanker (NYSE: NAT) have also seen big losses over the past three months. Until global demand picks up and the Baltic Dry Index stops falling, you can expect many of these companies to continue their free fall. This could be a great chance to pick them up at dirt cheap prices.

Last week, JA Solar announced it would be expanding solar-cell production capacity by about 30% next year, a positive sign for the Chinese maker of solar products. According to its CEO, this is about 2.5 times 2009 capacity, and it is focusing on emerging markets such as Africa and more conventional ones like Canada. This should be good news for the company, but several downgrades have hampered the announcement. JA was downgraded by Wells Fargo to an "underperform" rating; it was also shot down by Goldman Sachs and Nomura Securities. In general, analysts have been a bit bearish on Chinese solar stocks, as the index is down, and other companies like Solarfun Power (Nasdaq: SOLF) have been downgraded as well.

It's no secret that Irish banks like Allied Irish Banks (NYSE: AIB) have been taking a beating after they formally announced plans to accept a bailout offer similar to the one that Greece accepted earlier this year. And even though EU leaders have agreed to create a permanent debt-crisis mechanism by 2013, many economists don't think this will do anything to help the current situation. Case in point is Lloyds Banking, which has seen its share price continually go down since Ireland's fallout. Last week, Lloyds announced it would see a further 10% impairment of its Irish portfolio by the end of this year.

The Foolish bottom line
Don't let fear get the best of you. A falling or stagnant market can be a great thing in the long term, if you take advantage of the opportunities in front of you. Fortunately for investors, there's no shortage of options, and both small- and large-cap stocks just happen to be some of the best around.

Don't see any stocks here that interest you? Try doubling down on these home run hopefuls.

Jordan DiPietro owns no shares mentioned above. The Fool owns shares of Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that loves to roast a good fish on Christmas.