Legendary investor Warren Buffet says, "Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful." The earthquake in Japan has others fearful. So is now the time to be greedy? I think so.

Going against the grain
Fear-based selling can create an opportunity to generate a quick return. For example, many stocks beaten down by the Gulf oil spill rapidly returned to pre-spill prices (and beyond) once the oil spill news left the headlines and more rational investing minds prevailed.

The situation in Japan, as the saying goes, "is similar in many different ways." Here's a list of some earthquake-related decliners over the past week:  




% Decline

Cameco (NYSE: CCJ) $37.46 $31.12 (17%)
USEC (NYSE: USU) $5.15 $4.85 (6%)
Hitachi (NYSE: HIT) $60.45 $53.40 (12%)

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Cameco and USEC are nuclear power stocks. Nuclear power stocks are a bit risky given the possibility that the earthquake has caused long-term or even permanent damage to the future of that industry. However, many think -- myself included -- nuclear power stocks have been unfairly punished and represent a good buy at current levels.

But for now, I'd like to steer investors toward a different way to play the uncertainty surrounding the situation in Japan. The greatest investment opportunity might lie with the Japanese conglomerate, Hitachi. 

HIT takes a hit
Hitachi's decline in share price is primarily attributed to a temporary production disruption. At least six manufacturing locations suffered significant quake-related damage. The good news is analysts predict a minimal effect on Hitachi's bottom line as a result.

Analysts recently cut 2011 earnings estimates to $6.63 from a pre-quake estimate of $6.72. That's a measly 1.5% estimated reduction, which certainly does not warrant a 12% sell-off. Current 2011 earnings estimates at a pre-quake multiple of nine yields a potential stock price of $59.67, which is 12% above Hitachi's recent share price.

Once the fear around Hitachi subsides, I predict the stock will quickly return to pre-quake levels.  

The bottom line
I'm truly saddened by the recent tragedy in Japan. But the Japanese are resilient people. The country will recover, and many quake-affected stocks will recover as well.

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor Adam J. Crawford does not own shares in any company mentioned in this article. 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.