There are good times to buy stocks, and bad times to buy stocks. But how do you tell the difference?

That's a tough question, especially recently. It's easy to look at bargains across a wide range of stocks and conclude that this must be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Still, some will argue that even after recent massive losses, the stock market can fall further.

Both of those viewpoints are valid.

But even though stocks could see more drops, there are still good reasons why you should consider buying anyway:

  • A falling market isn't the only risk. Since no one knows for sure which way stocks will move, it's possible you could find yourself sitting on the sidelines while the market rises.
  • Warren Buffett's longtime partner Charlie Munger recently noted, "If you wait until the economy is working properly to buy stocks, it's almost certainly too late ... I have no feeling that just because there's more agony ahead for the economy you should wait to invest."
  • Buffett himself has recommended that we: "Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful." Although the recent rally has rekindled greedy thoughts among investors, many are still fearful -- the stock market is still down substantially from its 2007 highs. That's why we've got so many bargains in plain sight.

Screening for possibilities
In fact, you can pick up companies that have a combination of attractive features, including strong dividends, good growth prospects, and beaten-down prices. Witness the following selection of stocks, each of which has earned a top rating of five stars from our Motley Fool CAPS community:

Company

1-year return

Dividend yield

Est. 2010 EPS growth

NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX)

(53%)

4.2%

22%

ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP)

(49%)

4.2%

90%

BP (NYSE:BP)

(29%)

6.9%

53%

Arcelor Mittal (NYSE:MT)

(67%)

2.1%

1,156%

Total SA (NYSE:TOT)

(32%)

4.7%

29%

Diageo (NYSE:DEO)

(27%)

2.9%

14%

Arch Coal (NYSE:ACI)

(71%)

2.1%

244%

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

Of course, these aren't recommendations -- just ideas for further research. Given how far some of these companies have seen their earnings fall, you'd expect to see high growth figures for 2010, even if they just return to their normal, pre-recession levels.

The market's handed us a huge platter of lemons over the past year, and it might just be time to start making lemonade. Take advantage of bargains while they last -- they might be gone before you know it.

Learn more:

Dig up some bargains from our Motley Fool Inside Value newsletter. Try it for free and you'll have access to all past issues and all stock picks.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. NYSE Euronext is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Diageo and Total SA are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.