As I look for possible investment opportunities, I like to see not only which companies have made 52-week highs and lows (to satisfy both the growth and value investors lurking within me), but also which companies have made the biggest moves up and down in terms of percentages and dollars. That helps key me in to possible pricing anomalies by the market, but sometimes I just like to see what it is that moves these companies.

This morning, I scanned the big movers and saw that aaiPharma (NASDAQ:AAII) had made a sizeable jump, up 16% yesterday. This was a company I had written about in the past. I've covered its many foibles, investigations, and management defections, but I had not followed it recently. It was a wounded company, and though it owned the well-known painkillers Darvon and Darvocet, I didn't think there was much of an investment here at any price. So what was it that moved the stock?

Darned if I know, but most probably, it was gambling. Someone who is putting his or her money into aaiPharma is not investing, but instead placing a bet on a spin of the roulette wheel. Last November, Fool contributor Brian Gorman cautioned investors against rushing in. At the time, the company had just won some breathing room from its creditors, and it was making a bid to right itself. Still it was sitting on a mountain of debt with deteriorating finances and was thinking about selling off its painkillers, the one product area that was making it some money. This was not exactly a high-grade investment opportunity.

Despite assurances last year that bankruptcy was not even a possibility, management, such as it is, has been telling everyone who will listen these days that it is "highly likely" the company will have to seek protection. Apparently, there are still a few who refuse to listen. The type of bankruptcy it ultimately seeks will determine whether current shareholders get new shares in a reorganized company, but hoping you land on the right side of bankruptcy court is not investing.

Just ask old-time Kmart shareholders. Sure, current owners of Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD) -- the newly created company from the merger of Sears and Kmart -- have done well since Kmart emerged from bankruptcy, but shareholders of the original company who held on in hopes of getting a piece of the action were not only sorely disappointed, but also a bit poorer. The old shares were scrapped, new ones were minted, and tens of thousands of former shareholders were hung out to dry.

Normally, I don't consider penny stocks, either as investments or as a topic of conversation. Yet when I see people bidding up a company that trades at $0.50 a share, can't make the payments on its restructured debt, and is warning the market that it's in imminent need of seeking bankruptcy protection, I feel compelled to try to douse those "investors" with a bit of cold water.

With so many good companies around, why waste even $0.50 on the bedraggled remains of a onetime highflier?

Gamble instead on finding some useful investment information in these related bits of Foolishness:

Motley Fool contributor Rich Duprey occasionally bets on the ponies at the Meadowlands racetrack. He does not own any of the stocks mentioned in the article.