"'Don't catch a falling knife' ... The idea of buying a former superstar stock at a discount price certainly has its attractions, but you've got to make sure you catch the haft -- not the blade."

So runs the thesis of my recurring Fool column "Get Ready for the Bounce," in which we search among the wreckage of Mr. Market's overturned cutlery drawer, hoping to find future winners in a pile of 52-week losers. But do we really need to sit around for a whole year, waiting for a potential bouncer?

I say nay. Sometimes, stocks fall far 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're going to look at a few equities that've suffered dramatic drops over the past week. With a little help from the 160,000 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)

Transocean (NYSE: RIG)




Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC)




Halliburton (NYSE: HAL)








Walter Energy (NYSE: WLT)




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

Five super falls -- one superball
So the Dow's still sitting north of 11,000, but even so, it's been an absolutely miserable few weeks for a lot of investors. First there was the Goldman Sachs PR nightmare. Then the return of the European Debt Meltdown, Part Deux. And finally, the Deepwater disaster.

Little wonder so many stocks have fallen so very far. Less wonder that all of them are in the oil drilling sector. Yet, surveying the damage on Friday, the Fool's resident oil expert, Toby Shute, declared many of these sell-offs "senseless." While it's true that lawsuits are already flying, and that Transocean, Halliburton, and BP for example are all targets, Toby points out in particular how companies like ATP Oil & Gas (Nasdaq: ATPG) and Dril-Quip had literally nothing to do with the Gulf Coast disaster. And yet, you may be surprised to see that the one stock on today's list with the absolute highest risk-reward estimate among CAPS investors is ... the very company that owns/owned the exploded Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

Can there truly be hope for Transocean shareholders? Some of the smartest investors on CAPS believe there is. Let's find out why.

The bull case for Transocean
CAPS All-Star blue2fire berates the "Ridiculous backlash on the companies involved in this fiasco," pointing out that "The amount lost in market cap and the money it will cost them in fines, lawsuits and cleanup charges have nothing in common."

Meanwhile, as far as the business goes, fdude71 concedes: "OK they recently lost a RIG in Louisiana but they have another 150 to leverage. The company is solid, has a nice balance sheet and is the technology and field leader ... I think the recent dip is just panic sale and I'm glad to catch Transocean at of PE of less than 9."

Last but not least, All-Star investor wjcoffman grits teeth and risks: "Catching a falling knife." While admitting that "This leak is huge and will be the worst environmental disaster of several generations," wjcoffman argues that "The investigation will determine that it is due to human error (regardless of whether that is the truth or not)." And no, "The world won't stop it's consumption of oil."

Buy the numbers
Ordinarily at this point in the column, in evaluating whether investors' enthusiasm is warranted, I'd take a close look at Transocean's balance sheet, its income statement, its cash flow statement. I'd crunch the numbers and tell you whether I think the shares are undervalued or overvalued. But not today.

Today, I'm going to end with a very simple analogy, hinging on wjcoffman's mention of how the Deepwater Horizon is going to become the "worst environmental disaster of several generations." Now, aside from the kindergartners in the class, I'm sure you all remember who was responsible for the last "worst environmental disaster in blah, blah, blah" -- ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM).

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground off the Alaskan coast, spilling some 10.8 million gallons of crude into the ocean. The disaster took years to clean up, tainted the local environment for decades, and cost Exxon an initial $5.3 billion in litigation awards (since reduced by a factor of 10). Yet for all this, can you guess how Exxon's stock has performed from March 24, 1989 through today's date?

It's up more than 10 times, versus just a 300% gain for the S&P 500. Simply put, one multi-generational disaster won't be enough to do in this stock.

Or so says me. Maybe you have a different take on the disaster? Maybe you believe that, unlike Exxon, this particular mess is just too sticky to swim away from unscathed, and Transocean's following its rig -- going down in flames?

If so, then we've got a place to state your case. Click through, and tell me why I'm wrong.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find Rich on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 688 out of more than 160,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.